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."