For the second year in a row, Edward Jones grabbed the top spot in the 2012 U.S. Financial Advisor Satisfaction Study, J.D. Power and Associates announced.

In the employee advisor segment, Edward Jones took the top slot with 901 points. Raymond James & Associates gleaned 864 points giving it second-place finish in the employee segment, but it also made a strong name for itself by placing so highly in both the employee and independent firm rankings.

In response to the survey findings, Jim Weddle, the managing partner of Edward Jones, said the St. Louis-based firm has “a singular focus on doing one thing well—meeting the long-term needs of investors. We really put a huge investment in the creation of tools to put at our financial advisors’ fingertips. These tools allow them to collect information from clients to analyze the present situation.” Weddle added that he also was pleased to see that the firm’s compliance support was ranked highly.

Overall, firm performance continued to be the most important factor driving advisor satisfaction in both the employee and independent segments, according to J.D. Power. “Advisors want to know ‘Are their priorities aligned with mine? Am I affiliated with a market leader that will be around for a long time?” says David Lo, director of investment services at J.D. Power and Associates.

The study examines nine key drivers of employee advisor satisfaction: firm performance; compensation; contact; people; job duties; work environment; products and offerings to clients; technology; and services and support offered to financial advisors. It also examines eight key drivers of independent advisor satisfaction: firm performance; contact; people; job duties; compensation; technology; products and offerings to clients; and services and support offered to financial advisors.

RBC Wealth came in fourth with 802 points while UBS Wealth Management Americas came in with 730 points —above the industry average of 698 points. However, industry titans such as Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Wells Fargo Advisors, all scored below the industry average.

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Meanwhile, on the independent firm side, advisors in that channel overwhelmingly approved of Commonwealth Financial Network’s leadership and direction, according to the survey. Commonwealth scored a 917 overall out of a possible 1,000, securing the top slot for the ranking’s second consecutive year. It bested Raymond James Financial Services, which gathered 887 points to place second, and Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, which came in third with 831 points. “Our firm is client first and we’ve never wavered from that,” says Wayne Bloom, CEO of Commonwealth Financial Network. 

Raymond James managed to straddle both the independent and employee channels, but do it well. The firm was second last year in the employee advisor segment and third in the independent sector, showing improvement.

“We’re really pleased with where we are in the standings. We have a really engaged broker application support team,” Tim Killgoar, director of client experience at Raymond James Financial, said. “It helps keep them up to speed. We also have a pretty robust technology advisory council, where in advisors give feedback and we work that back into the services.”

The 2012 U.S. Financial Advisor Satisfaction Study is based on responses of nearly 2,800 financial advisors and was conducted between November 2011 and January 2012.

Donna Mitchell writes for Financial Planning.