Bank of America’s wealth group now works with $3 trillion. That level continues to grow thanks to Merrill advisors’ push to bring in new client households — which totaled 40,800 last year — and strong market performance.
The number of Merrill financial advisors stands at about 17,500, with the average level of 12-month fees and commissions at $1.1 million for 2019. Veteran FAs brought on an average of 5.5 new households last year, with an average household size of $1.3 million.
How does it see its performance improving further in 2020? A senior executive at the wirehouse, who spoke to the media Wednesday, highlighted the following six areas.
(Merrill executives provide quarterly updates to reporters on the firm’s plans on the condition the executive not be named.)
1. Sourcing Recruits
While the firm is focused on the organic growth of its Thundering Herd, it is seeing “more interest … from advisors who want to join us,” the executive said.
“Where we make offers is lower-lengths-of-service advisors, from two to seven years of service, and who today are not working at the other wirehouses,” he explained.
This means hiring those from regional firms or RIAs, “and they are joining us through our Accelerated Growth Program,” he added.
“Hiring in this area has increased substantially in ‘19 over ‘18, and we think there continues to be some upside there.”
Competitive attrition of Merrill advisors — or the share of reps leaving the firm — was roughly 4% last year.
2. Diversity and Inclusion
Building a “modern Merrill in 2020” requires further diversity and inclusion, the executive said.
“We have most the most diverse class of trainees in the history of the program — 30% female and more than a third ethnically diverse,” he explained. The firm also is making more diversity-focused hiring across the firm and “at all levels,” he added, “to reflect the increasing diversity of the client population, … and we are very proud of that progress.”
3. The Protocol
“There is no dialogue here on revisiting our position on the Protocol” for Broker Recruiting, which aims to limit lawsuits tied to advisor movement between firms, said the executive. “We are very comfortable remaining in the protocol.”
Rivals Morgan Stanley and UBS have both left the arrangement.