Two months after Merrill Lynch told its Thundering Herd that it would explore “options” for clients who might benefit from commissions in retirement accounts, the wirehouse has filled in the details.
Still, the wirehouse told its 14,000-plus registered reps that they could take a non-fee-based approach in “limited situations,” according to Andy Sieg, who leads the wealth management unit.
First, it is adding products to its Investment Advisory Platform. Advisory share class annuities will be available by May 31; hedge funds, new-issue CDs and market-linked investments should be rolled out soon.
Merrill is also helping clients move from existing brokerage IRAs to Investment Advisory accounts with “pricing flexibility, including rebates on mutual fund share class exchanges,” Sieg told the Thundering Herd in a memo.
The firm’s tweaks to its interpretation of the DOL rule make sense, according to recruiter Mark Elzweig. “There are a lot of moving parts here. The rule itself is more than 1,000 pages long … As long as the rule places firms squarely in the cross hairs of plaintiffs’ attorneys, their flexibility is limited,” he explained.
“Advisors will welcome any changes that expand their options in handling retirement accounts,” explained Elzweig, who is based in New York.
Starting June 12, a limited purpose brokerage IRA will also be available to clients. It can initially be for cash and bank deposits only, but later will include a “limited product set, such as money funds, brokered CDs and concentrated stock positions (i.e., employer rollovers or transfers).
“For these limited situations, we will use the Best Interest Contract exemption,” the executive explained. High-net-worth clients — with over $50 million of assets — will be able to buy hedge funds and private equity via the BIC exemption.