What You Need to Know
- Ten years ago, only 45% of Merrill advisors were on teams.
- Today, it's almost 80% and, by 2030, it's expected to be 100%.
- Not immediately clear was whether that is a prediction, a mandate or both.
Brokers at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management are increasingly shifting away from working on their own to becoming part of a team and just about all of them are expected to be part of a team eight years from now, according to Andy Sieg, president of the Merrill division.
The “future of wealth management” will be dependent upon “five foundational elements,” starting with “great advisors working as teams,” he said Thursday at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association’s Private Client Conference in Aventura, Florida.
“Ten years ago, only 45% of advisors at Merrill were on teams,” he told attendees and those watching the session online. “Today, that’s approaching 80%. By 2030, for all practical purposes, it will be 100%.”
But “there’s not a single answer to the right team structure, roles or skills” that will be involved, he said. Clients just “simply expect and deserve more than a sole practitioner can practically provide” to them, he added.
Prediction or Mandate?
Merrill’s move to have more of its brokers be part of teams “makes sense from a client service point of view” because it stands to translate into “better service levels,” provides backup, and allows for “specialization” of roles within a team and more options matching advisors with clients, according to Andy Tasnady, managing partner of Tasnady Associates.
But some advisors “will still prefer [working] solo” and, as a result, “they may need to move on at some point” if that is no longer allowed, he told ThinkAdvisor on Friday.
The “teaming” trend is not new, according to Danny Sarch, president of Leitner Sarch Consultants, who noted it “has been encouraged for at least 10 years.” Companies have “put incentives to team creation into their compensation plans for several years too,” he added.
Similarly, Diamond Consultants has been “certainly aware that firms, including Merrill, have been encouraging teaming for years,” Jason Diamond, vice president of Diamond Consultants, told ThinkAdvisor. “But this is definitely the furthest we’ve seen any firm go.”
What’s “a little unclear to me [is] whether the comments were a prediction or a mandate” that all Merrill brokers become part of a team by 2030, Diamond said. That was not made clear by Sieg during his presentation.
“I think it’s a big distinction,” Diamond said. There are benefits to teams for the firms, clients and advisors, he said, noting that it provides greater scale for advisors and gives clients access to diverse points of view.
“But a mandate … will not feel good and that is, I think, what is likely to cause a strong reaction from advisors,” he said. “The reality is some advisors just prefer to be sole practitioners.”