August 25, 2021

Andy Sieg, Merrill Lynch Wealth Administration President

(Up to date with extra element from Sieg’s memo to brokers.)

Amid a rising variety of departures by seasoned and high-producing brokers, Merrill Lynch Wealth Administration is launching a two-month lengthy initiative to handle frustrations and ache factors among the many “thundering herd.” 

The marketing campaign, dubbed Venture Thunder internally, is predicated partly on dealer suggestions and was rolled out to the gross sales drive on Wednesday via a video and memo from Merrill Wealth President Andy Sieg. It focuses on 4 broad pillars: making it simpler to do enterprise, product and platform enhancements, success and tradition, and selling the Merrill model, in accordance with an announcement from Sieg.

“In line with our historical past and tradition, Merrill is dedicated to listening to our advisors, shopper associates and their groups,” Sieg stated within the assertion. “Our targets are to proceed to make it straightforward for all Merrill workers to do enterprise, for our advisors and their groups to develop and obtain success, and to ship for shoppers via extraordinary service and capabilities.”

This system is introducing three comparatively small tweaks initially, and can embody a complete of no less than 24 adjustments over the eight weeks, Sieg informed brokers in a memo. The primary change, for instance, permits some trainees to affix groups instantly, and different updates will observe weekly, in accordance with one other “snapshot” despatched to advisors. 

“Designed by the sphere, for the sphere to enhance your expertise!” in accordance with the snapshot, which highlighted extra modifications to the “24 hour buying and selling rule” and different investments software for personal wealth advisors.

Brokers are additionally inspired to offer suggestions throughout this system via advisory councils to administration, department and market leaders in addition to peer networking teams, in accordance with an individual aware of the matter. 

The marketing campaign is kicking off lower than two months after Sieg acknowledged in an inside presentation that Merrill management was centered on aggressive attrition, which ticked as much as 5% from 4% within the second quarter. (Executives at rival wirehouse Morgan Stanley have touted an attrition price below 2%.) 

“[T]right here will all the time be areas needing focus from management. Proper now, it’s aggressive attrition–larger on this quarter than we’d wish to see,” Sieg, who has led the Merrill Lynch wealth unit since 2017, stated in July. 

The departures have included a lot of life-long Merrill brokers, massive non-public wealth groups centered on high-end shoppers and top-ranked next-gen advisors who’ve received inside recognition for his or her account development. 

Financial institution of America’s general advisor rely, together with a number of thousand bank-based Edge advisors and personal bankers along with the core Merrill drive, was down 5.9% year-over-year to 19,358. 

“As departures enhance, Andy is in search of methods to show he’s listening,” stated one veteran dealer aware of the plan. “Too little too late?? Probably. The place was this Three years in the past??”

Whereas Wednesday’s announcement didn’t present additional particulars on anticipated adjustments, a separate define shared with market executives and a few influential advisors included extra areas of focus, akin to monetary advisor and shopper affiliate compensation, guidelines round internet hosting seminars, strengthening recognition golf equipment and coaching applications, and making the Merrill Lynch bull a extra distinguished fixture.

Whether or not the trouble is profitable could rely on how far the agency is prepared to go in making adjustments, in accordance with former managers and brokers. Some brokers have chafed at a 3% withholding on income that took impact in 2019, for instance, or banking product gross sales targets and compliance and documentation hurdles that they are saying have grow to be distracting.

“It’s a financial institution compliance setting,” stated Andew Kahng, a lifer who moved his $2-million staff to Morgan Stanley in Fort Lauderdale in June however was not aware of the Venture Thunder program. “I inform everyone that I didn’t go away Merrill. I left Financial institution of America.”

The marketing campaign’s launch coincides with Merrill reopening all of its brokerage workplaces, which had been closed through the pandemic, over the previous two months. It should enable many extra vaccinated brokers to return to their desks for the primary time in 18 months on September 9, in accordance with a separate memo from Sieg on Wednesday.  

“We’ve seen an excessive amount of vitality and momentum as extra workers return to the workplace,” stated Sieg, who has been across the nation to have fun workplace re-openings, in accordance with photographs posted to LinkedIn by Merrill managers. “A part of our plan [is] to construct upon this momentum over the subsequent two months.”

Alongside the broker-focused Venture Thunder, Merrill has additionally been centered on retaining prospects when brokers go away. The wirehouse has put in place groups of “shopper expertise specialists” who name on prospects of brokers who go away for one more agency and supply payment reductions and different lagniappes and has additionally pursued no less than two former groups in court docket over solicitation of shoppers, notably those that have been referred from the financial institution.

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