BofA, Krawcheck Narrow Search for New Merrill Head

Two senior executives and two regional directors are in the running for the top Merrill Lynch post, according to Bloomberg

Bank of America wealth-management President Sallie Krawcheck (left) has narrowed her search for the new head of Merrill Lynch, according to a Bloomberg report on Wednesday.

Two deputies in the running for the post, now held by Lyle LaMothe, are Andrew Sieg and John Thiel, Bloomberg says, and one of two regional directors could also be tapped.

The company wouldn’t confirm this information, but said in a statement: “We’re fortunate to have a deep bench of talented senior managers in the organization to consider for this important role and we’re being thoughtful and diligent in the process.”

Sieg is now in charge of retirement services for BofA, while Thiel runs the private bank and investment group for Merrill. Thiel joined Merrill as an advisor in Tampa, Fla., in 1989, while Sieg joined the firm as an analyst in 1992.

“It's important that Merrill Lynch choose someone that has credibility with the retail sales force,” said executive-search consultant  Mark Elzweig (left) in New York. “It's good that the top candidates vying for the job all have deep roots at Merrill.”

As of December 2010, Merrill's "thundering herd" included roughly 15,500 financial advisors.

LaMothe was tapped to head Merrill in September 2009, one month after Krawcheck joined BofA, and he is set to retire in May. He has worked for Merrill for 24 years, after joining the firm as an advisor in San Bernardino, Calif.

According to Bloomberg, the two regional heads also being considered for the job are William Lorenz, head the Southeast region, and Donald Plaus, who runs the Northeast area.

Merrill Lynch, which accounts for nearly 80% of the wealth-management unit’s sales, boosted its year-over-year revenue by close to $400 million – or 13% -- in the fourth quarter of 2010, to $3.55 billion. Fourth-quarter sales also improved about $285 million, or 9%, over third-quarter results.

Merrill had exactly 15,498 registered reps at the end of Q4 2010. This shift represents an increase of 327 advisors over the fourth quarter of 2009 and 22 more than in the third quarter of 2010.

Assets under management at Merrill stand at $1.58 trillion, up from $1.48 trillion last year and $1.52 in the third quarter of 2010. Assets for the full wealth-management unit total $2.24 trillion.

Per advisor, average AUM for Merrill is thus nearly $102 million. Gross sales, or production, per FA was $854,000 for the full-year 2010.

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