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) --

Morgan Stanley's

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brokerage unit, Smith Barney, is on an aggressive hiring spree and is offering attractive pay packages to financial advisers as the retail brokerage job market improves.

The company is offering top-performing brokers at rival firms in excess of 300% of their annual fees and commissions over five years, and as much as 280% to second-level brokers,


reports, citing headhunters it spoke to.

The recruitment package brings Smith Barney in line with other top firms such as

Merrill Lynch's

Global Wealth Management division, said one recruiter, according to



Another recruiter, Rick Peterson, president of executive recruiting firm Rick Peterson & Associates, told


the firm is offering strong fourth- and fifth-year incentives, while the terms of the initial three years matched what the brokerage had previously been offering for top performers.

Other brokerages such as Merrill, a unit of

Bank of America

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which has suffered from broker defections, already is offering recruits a very strong package, said Peterson.

He added that

Wells Fargo

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might improve its offer, while


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might soon be out with an offer.