The industry's top executives shared their strategies for success with On Wall Street just as Morgan Stanley reported client assets had fallen, dropping to $1.925 trillion in the third quarter from $2.003 trillion from a year earlier. That mirrors a similar decline at Merrill Lynch, which reported that client assets shrank to $1.942 trillion from $2.004 trillion for the year-ago period.

Clearly, there's no place for complacency these days, and the biggest wealth management players anticipate changes by regularly adjusting their strategies.

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