January 14, 2010

Merrill's Krawcheck on Breakaway Brokers: Just 'Industry Chatter,' Given Low Attrition

The wealth-management executive at BofA says the top-two quintiles of FAs not leaving en masse to join RIA, other channels.

Speaking to reporters during a January 14 teleconference, Sallie Krawcheck -- president of Bank of America Global Wealth and Investment Management -- said that broker attrition at Merrill Lynch fell to "an all-time low" in the fourth quarter of 2009.

That was particularly true, she said, among the firm's top producers -- the top two quintiles among the firm's broker force.

She thus said that despite "industry chatter" to the contrary, "we haven't seen nearly as much" movement from the brokerage channel to the RIA space. She admitted that the attrition rate was high earlier in the year, but by the fourth quarter, the rate had fallen to "half of what we had seen in our best previous year."

Delivering the findings of a Merrill quarterly survey on affluent Americans and retirement, Krawcheck, who was retained in her position by new Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan when he announced a number of other management changes at the bank on November 12, further quoted a recent survey of Merrill brokers that found a majority felt that the Bank of America merger with Merrill Lynch "has been good for them," again despite what she said was "industry chatter" that "would have you believe otherwise."

In response to a question, Krawchek lauded the broker force of Merrill, noting the long average tenure of its brokers, and the high investments the firm makes in training and technology. On retirement specifically, she noted that 20% of the broker force had accreditation in that area (that is the number of Merrill brokers who have the CRPC designation, Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor).

As for future growth, she said Merrill planned to "add to headcount, but not at a high rate," calling those prospective new brokers a "supplement to, not replacements for" existing Merrill financial advisors.

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This article orginally appeared on the website of Research magazine's sister publication,Investment Advisor. It was written by James J. Green, Editor of Invesment Advisor, and Group Editor in Chief, Summit Business Media.

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