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Recent Hires Will Join a Quietly Growing Unit at Merrill Lynch

Details about the performance of the firm’s Private Bank and Investment Group are thin, but it appears to be steadily growing.

Three recent hires will be joining a quietly growing unit of Merrill Lynch that caters to ultra high net worth clients.

The brokerage, owned by Bank of America, recently announced that Roger Berry, Felix Erbring and Ted Gray joined the firm’s Private Bank and Investment Group on Jan. 6. The Austin-based team previously managed $466 million in client assets at UBS and produced more than $4.5 million in commissions and fees in 2016.

Bob Johnson, the managing director of the Private Bank and Investment Group’s greater Texas region, said in a statement that the trio “have a great reputation for serving ultra high net worth families in South Texas” and was unsurprised by their move.

“When these highly specialized advisors consider joining the firm, they want to know that it’s the best place for them to serve their clients,” he said in an email. “Once they meet with us and better understand all of the capabilities available to them here, we win often.”

The greater Texas region of the banking group, which includes Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arizona, has nearly doubled the number of advisors over the last three and half years and now has a total of 55.

Merrill Lynch would not share the number of advisors hired during the same period for the six other PBIG regions in the U.S. Yet overall, there are 194 teams, which can include multiple advisors, working for the PBIG, up from 161 at the end of 2012, a spokesperson for Merrill said.

During that same period, most of the 55 advisors added in the greater Texas region created 10 large and small teams, but some were added to existing ones, Johnson said. Twelve advisors were added in Houston alone, while others were spread across Austin, Dallas, Denver, St. Louis and others.

Overall, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management has 14,629 financial advisors, and the firm’s productivity per broker fell during the fourth quarter of 2016 to $964,000 from $996,000 a year earlier. Yet little is detailed about the private bank in earnings statements, and the firm does not publicly share the PBIG assets under management. Clients of the group typically have $10 million or more of investable assets, a spokesperson said.

“We saw opportunities to scale our private banking business and meet client demand in underpenetrated markets, and have been dedicated to that strategy for the last several years,” Johnson said. “We still see opportunities for growth in markets like Denver and Houston over the next few years.” 

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