WealthManagement Magazine

Merrill Lynch

Merrill Lynch brokers appreciate the fact that the Merrill brand name is instantly recognized, and its research is respected. "The best thing about Merrill is that it has a tremendous image and presence," says one broker. "It makes it easy to break the ice with a prospect."Merrill brokers also love the firm's progressiveness - its emphasis on financial planning, the addition of banking services to

Merrill Lynch brokers appreciate the fact that the Merrill brand name is instantly recognized, and its research is respected. "The best thing about Merrill is that it has a tremendous image and presence," says one broker. "It makes it easy to break the ice with a prospect."

Merrill brokers also love the firm's progressiveness - its emphasis on financial planning, the addition of banking services to brokerage accounts, its online offerings and fee products. "Unlimited Advantage is a blessing in disguise," says one rep. "It takes every conflict out of the picture."

Still, despite the firm's innovations, brokers gripe about low payouts, workloads, scant training, cost-cutting and the shortage of sales assistants.

The assistants they have are good, "but they're not paid enough to stay here long," a producer says. "There's too much cost-cutting. They really need to spend more on training and sales assistants."

Depending on whom you ask, Merrill's brokerage division might also be a kinder, gentler employer these days. Reps point to less pressure to sell Merrill-brand products and no more financial-plan quotas, thanks to new retail management.

"It's letting up somewhat with new management, [although] there's still some pressure," says one broker. Another producer agrees, "It's becoming more broker-friendly." But a third rep hasn't experienced any softening. "There is a lot of pressure, all the time," he says.

"My frustration comes from our lending business area. They say we're lenders, but our 30-year mortgage rates aren't close to being competitive."

"I like having the freedom to develop my own business. I like the direction the firm is taking toward a fee-based approach with an emphasis on planning."

"The only downside here is our operations department. It's kind of like the U.S. government - so big with so many steps that it takes a lot of time to get things done or get answers."

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