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John Thiel, Head of Merrill Lynch, to Step Down

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Bank of America (BAC) said Thursday that John Thiel is stepping down as head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management at year-end. 

Andy Sieg, now head of the Global Wealth and Retirement Solutions for BofA-Merrill, will replace Thiel on Jan. 1.

Thiel, who has led Merrill Lynch since April 2011, plans to take on a new role as vice chairman of Global Wealth and Investment Management. In this post, he will advise Terry Laughlin, a Bank of America vice chairman and head of GWIM, as well as other members of the BofA-GWIM leadership team on topics like business integration, goals-based wealth management and regulatory matters, according to a press release.

“Since 2011, under John Thiel’s leadership, Merrill Lynch has made tremendous progress by developing and beginning to implement goals-based wealth management,” said Laughlin, in a statement.

“Recognizing that our strategy has been proven and is now being implemented, John came to me and indicated he was thinking about his future and his desire to connect to the other passions in his life, particularly his commitment to working with organizations that help people who are less fortunate,” explained Laughlin. “As he considers how he can make his next important contribution, I’m very happy that he’ll be an important advisor to me, the Bank of America and GWIM management teams, and our advisors.”

Different Paths

While Thiel has an uninterrupted career at Merrill Lynch, starting out as an advisor in 1989 and moving up the ranks, Sieg has a different background. The future head of Merrill’s thundering herd first worked in the White House as an advisor and then joined Merrill in 1992 as an analyst, later working in senior strategy and field leadership roles, such as serving as a market executive in San Diego and New York. Sieg left the firm to work for Citigroup from 2005 to 2009, but then returned to serve as BofA head of Global Wealth & retirement Solutions.

“Andy Sieg has more than 20 years of experience at Merrill Lynch and has proven to be both a dynamic leader and accomplished at strategy execution,” Laughlin said. “Under Andy’s leadership, we’ll continue to implement our goals-based advice model. He is ideally suited to lead Merrill Lynch on the next phase of its journey.”

As of the June 30, Merrill Lynch had total revenue of $3.63 billion and about $2 trillion in client assets.

The level of average advisor productivity (or average yearly fees & commissions per rep) was $984,000 (BofA said the average yearly production for veteran advisors was $1.26 million).

The broader wealth unit at BofA had some 16,664 financial advisors (up about 300 from a year ago and up about 50 from the prior quarter), most of them Merrill Lynch reps; some 2,250 of these reps are with the consumer-banking unit.

“One of the first things I learned after joining Merrill Lynch in 1992 was the founding principle that the interests of our customers must come first,” Sieg said in a statement. “I’m proud that we’ve kept that embedded in our company. We have the finest financial advisors in the world, and I am honored to be asked to lead them.”

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