Wirehouse UBS lost 283 financial advisors — or 4% of its advisory force — year-to-year in the Americas, trimming its roster to 6,627 at the end of the third quarter, compared to 6,910 for the same time period in 2018.

UBS executives conceded that the FA recruiting environment is competitive but added that they have a "pipeline."

“We have been very focused in our hiring and very selective,” UBS CFO Kirt Gardner said at a meeting with stock analysts after UBS’ earnings were released this week.

The wirehouse’s recruiting has focused on FAs who service UHNW clients, he said.

“We have a decent pipeline going forward and that’s going to continue to be our focus, and you know, yes indeed, there is quite intense competition,” Gardner said, noting JPMorgan Chase and the regional broker-dealers as particularly fierce rivals. “We still feel comfortable with our franchise and our strategy going forward,” he said.

Outside recruiters expressed less confidence about UBS’ prospects.

“I think they are at a dangerous crossroads,” says Danny Sarch, president of White Plains, N.Y.’s Leitner Sarch Consultants. “This type of bleeding is dangerous," Sarch says.

UBS’ withdrawal from the Protocol for Broker Recruiting, the industry accord that allows departing advisors to take some client information with them without the threat of lawsuits, continues to hinder its FA recruiting, according to Sarch and Bill Willis, president and CEO of Willis Consulting in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.

“You send a very negative message,” Willis says about UBS' protocol departure.

Also, the wirehouse’s strategy of offering recruited FAs salaries, rather than upfront loans, also gives some recruiting targets reason for pause, Willis says.

“Do they really have anything better than anyone else?” Willis asks. He then answers: “A hard 'no.'”