Bank of America wealth-management leader Sallie Krawcheck tapped John Thiel (left) as the new head of Merrill Lynch on Wednesday, according to a spokesperson. Thiel will begin leading the brokerage’s 15,695 financial advisors on May 1. The new head of Merrill’s “thundering herd” joined the firm in 1989 as an advisor in Tampa, Florida. Most recently he has run the private bank and investment group for Merrill.

Thiel replaces Lyle Mother, whose May 1 retirement was announced in May 1. 

"John is one of our most accomplished senior managers, and I know he will build on his successes to impact our wealth management business more broadly,” Krawcheck (left) said in a statement. “John possesses deep wealth management and Merrill Lynch experience and has a strong commitment to our advisors, our clients and our culture."

In the first quarter of 2011, Merrill Lynch profits stood at $531 million, up 68.6% quarter-over-quarter and up 22.4% year-over-year. Revenues totaled $3.54 billion compared with $2.99 billion a year ago, for a gain of 18.5%.

Merrill Lynch client balances stood at $1.55 trillion versus $1.45 trillion in Q1 2010, 6.9% higher. Quarter-over-quarter revenues were 3.3% higher from Q4 2010’s $3.43 billion.

At nearly, 15,700, the number of financial advisors at Merrill Lynch rose by 184 FAs in the early part of  2011 from 15,511 in Q4 2010 and 15,178 a year ago. Financial-advisor yearly production, or fees and commissions, rose to $931,000 per advisor in the first quarter from $913,000 in the previous period.

Assets under management (AUM) at Merrill grew to more than $1.554 trillion, or $99 million in average assets per rep, versus $98 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.