Merrill Lynch said its advisor headcount grew in the first quarter to 17,646. That’s up 111 from a year ago and 188 from the prior quarter.
At the same time, the average 12-month fees and commissions per advisor were $1.14 million vs. $1.04 million in Q1’19 and $1.1 million in Q4’19.
But this type of growth appears unlikely for Q2’20, based on the impact of restricted recruiting, face-to-face meetings with clients and prospects due to the coronavirus and market-related issues.
Speaking with the media after parent firm Bank of America released earnings Wednesday morning, a senior Merrill Lynch executive — who spoke on condition of not being named — said some 700 of the unit’s advisor trainees have temporary assignments elsewhere in the bank (to work on small-business loans and other projects) “and then [they] will be back on the path, in the medium term, to becoming advisors.”
But the wealth unit’s work-from-home arrangements, “We’re not in a position to hire into [that] program … at the pace we’d had in the past,” the executive explained, mentioning that interviews and new offers can’t take place in the lockdown conditions.
Offers to those set to start this month will “be honored,” but further hiring for it has been put on hold, the executive added.
Experienced Advisor Recruiting
There is still “some hiring” of advisors who already are licensed, have limited FA experience and received recent offers from Merrill. “We’ve had some individuals join us … from independent and regional firms,” the executive said, and they benefit from the three-year salary base in the Accelerated Growth Program.
“Now, we are not extending new offers … as that’s not particularly practical” today, the executive explained. “We are not focused now on other types of competitive hiring, as we’ve talked about for a number of years.”
In other words, those individuals set to join Merrill teams and training programs in April are coming on board. Other new hiring, though, is on “pause.”