ML Brokers Pissed about BofA Coup

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Jun 3, 2009 1:58 pm

hot off the presses... saw on Business Insider dated 6/3

ML Brokers Pissed about Huge Changes at the firm

Huge changes are planned for Bank of America's Merrill Lynch. The
head of the legendary 16,000 person brokerage unit--often referred to
as "the thundering herd"--is being ousted in favor of a Bank of America
insider, according to a person familiar with the matter. Changes in the
way brokers are compensated will likely make pay less transparent and
less reliable.


Many brokers are still unaware of the planned changes, which have
not been announced internally or to the public. It is always possible
that last minute maneuvers could result in Sontag keeping his position
or the compensation changes being halted.


Dan Sontag, a thirty year veteran of Merrill Lynch who now heads it
Global Wealth & Investment Management unit, will leave the firm
shortly, sources says. He was elevated to the top position at Merrill's
brokerage after the departure of Bob McCann following the merger with
Bank of America. His replacement is likely to be Keith Banks, who ran
the BofA wealth management business prior to the merger. Banks was
essentially demoted and placed under Sontag following the merger, a
move many believed was aimed at reassuring Merrill brokers that they
would be treated well in the new corporate structure.


Rumors that Sontag, who worked closely with McCann for years and was
seen as an ally of the Merrill financial advisers, will be replaced by
Banks, who is viewed as an ally of the Bank of America executives, is
already roiling the financial advisers.


"There's a theory that the financial advisers have nowhere else to
go," a person familiar with the situation said. "This is wrong. Morgan
Stanley Smith Barney and Goldman are hiring. The FAs are all going to
leave."


Perhaps more important than the managerial reshuffle are the changes
planned to the way financial advisers are compensated. At Merrill
Lynch, the FAs were paid according to what is called an "eat what you
kill" basis. Brokers accumulated points for selling products to
customers and bringing more money under management of Merrill. Each
month, brokers were paid based on these points. It was a highly
transparent form of compensation that brokers had come to rely upon.


The new system would pay the FAs closer to the way investment
bankers are paid, with a small annual salary and a larger end of year
bonus. The bonus, however, may be limited by government restrictions on
pay at firms operating with TARP funding. It is thought that the
controversial retention bonuses Bank of America promised brokers,
promises which predated the TARP pay restrictions, may be exempt from
these limits.


The change in pay is described as "revolutionary" by insiders. For
years, many Merrill FAs have viewed themselves as partners with the
firm, almost outside consultants who share revenue from their clients
with the firm in exchange for use of the Merrill brand and back-office
services. Under the new compensation structure, they will be treated
much more like ordinary employees.


"This is really pissing people off," said one insider. "These guys
all across the country are basically being told they are being turned
into branch offices of Bank of America."

Jun 3, 2009 3:29 pm

Sorry, but my heart will never bleed for a ML rep!  Most of them have ego's the size of Texas. Makes you want to puke when you would talk to them.

There has been a lot of crap that hit the fan over the last two years but the day ML was sold, to me that was a great day  
Jun 3, 2009 3:50 pm

Burton - thanks for sharing.  I wonder who's next?

Jun 3, 2009 4:55 pm

In other news, cats are mad at dogs for chasing them.

Jun 3, 2009 6:39 pm
Greenbacks:

Sorry, but my heart will never bleed for a ML rep!  Most of them have ego's the size of Texas. Makes you want to puke when you would talk to them.

There has been a lot of crap that hit the fan over the last two years but the day ML was sold, to me that was a great day  



Not a ML rep - yet - but you are an a-hole. Were you picked on as a kid??

Jun 3, 2009 6:41 pm
Chazzy:
Greenbacks:

Sorry, but my heart will never bleed for a ML rep!  Most of them have ego's the size of Texas. Makes you want to puke when you would talk to them.

There has been a lot of crap that hit the fan over the last two years but the day ML was sold, to me that was a great day  



Not a ML rep - yet - but you are an a-hole. Were you picked on as a kid??

 
 
He's right. ML brokers are the most arrogant sob's and they deserve everything that they get.
Jun 3, 2009 6:46 pm

I think the most screwed advisors in the whole ML and B of A world are the legacy BAI FAs...paid like bank advisors but now working in a wirehouse world, cuts everywhere, leads gone, etc. Missing about 10-15 bps on the grid just for being on the wrong side of the deal right now. 

Jun 3, 2009 6:53 pm
It's interesting to see moves like this that further undermine Merrill Lynch in my opinion. I thought BofA acquired ML because they brought incredible people and strength. So now they want outsiders??

Bank of America hires top economist, strategy chief <div ="byline"> <abbr title="2009-06-01T04:37:00-0700" ="timedate">Mon&nbsp;Jun&nbsp;1, 7:37&nbsp;am&nbsp;ET</abbr> </div><!-- end .byline --> <p>NEW YORK (Reuters) –

Bank of America Corp's (BAC.N) corporate and investment banking unit has hired Ethan Harris as head of North America economics
and David Bianco as head of U.S. equity strategy, two of the
highest-profile appointments since the acquisition of Merrill Lynch
& Co.



Harris joins Banc of America Securities-Merrill Lynch Research from Barclays Plc's (BARC.L) Barclays Capital
unit, where along with Dean Maki he was chief U.S. economist and head
of U.S. economic research. Maki will retain those roles, Barclays said
in a separate statement.



Harris had since 2003 been chief U.S. economist at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc (LEHMQ.PK)
before that company went bankrupt and Barclays bought some of its
operations. Before joining Lehman in 1996, Harris worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and at JPMorgan (JPM.N).



Bianco joins from UBS AG
(UBSN.VX), where he had been chief U.S. equity portfolio strategist and
head of U.S. valuation and accounting research. Before joining UBS, he
worked at Deutsche Bank AG (DBKGn.DE) and Credit Suisse First Boston (CSGN.VX).



Harris will join Bank of America in September, and Bianco in July. Both will report to Adam Quinton, head of global macro research. Reuters had reported Harris' hiring.



The hirings come as Bank of America integrates Merrill Lynch, which it acquired on January 1. Several top executives had since left, including chief North American economist David Rosenberg, who departed in March for Canadian wealth management company Gluskin Sheff & Associates Inc (GS.TO).



On May 11, Kenneth Lewis, Bank of America's chief executive, said on a
conference call that "we have lost some people that we did not want to
lose" at Merrill. "On the other hand, business is really good."

Jun 3, 2009 7:57 pm
Alice Cooper:
Chazzy:
Greenbacks:

Sorry, but my heart will never bleed for a ML rep!  Most of them have ego's the size of Texas. Makes you want to puke when you would talk to them.

There has been a lot of crap that hit the fan over the last two years but the day ML was sold, to me that was a great day  



Not a ML rep - yet - but you are an a-hole. Were you picked on as a kid??

 
 
He's right. ML brokers are the most arrogant sob's and they deserve everything that they get.



I add you to the a-hole list then too

Jun 3, 2009 8:27 pm

The domino's are beginning to fall...it was such a wonderful industry for such a long time...

Jun 3, 2009 8:59 pm

Anyone read this.



Bank Of America Denies Our Merrill Shakeup Story (BAC)

http://shar.es/bfQ4

Jun 3, 2009 11:15 pm

It amazes me how many of you love to stereotype people based on poor experiences you may have had with someone.



In every industry and occupation, there are "arrogant snobs." I'm a ML advisor, and yes, are there some arrogant people I work with - sure, but how is that different than any other firm? I've interacted with PLENTY of arrogant SB, MS, UBS, etc. advisors with egos a mile long. It doesn't mean I'll characterize everyone at their firm in that mold - it just simply means that PERSON is someone I'd rather not deal with or model myself or business after.



How hard of a concept is this to understand?



And BTW, anyone who believes this article from this moron at Clusterstock deserves to take the bait. This is nothing but rumor on his part and the mere fact that he takes a preemptive "cover your *ss" statement like, "the situation may change due to late maneuvering..." makes me think he has even less credibility. This guy is an Internet blogger that doesn't even come close to understanding the ML comp structure. There is no such thing as "points" for compensation at ML... it's simply Production Credits and how you're paid on them relative to your grid - same as any other firm.



Also, did it ever occur to this wacko that if BofA was to make such dramatic changes to essentially the "crown jewel" of the entire merger transaction (namely, ML's wealth management unit and even more importantly, it's advisors), that most of the top producers would just simply walk?

Jun 4, 2009 6:02 am

I believe that article is false and B of A is going to release a statement to its employees denying that rumor today.



However, if you are ML, I can assure you that your compensation plan will change as a result of the merger. It may not happen right away and it won't be salary + bonus, but it will change to where you are going to have to hit certain "bank product buckets" in order to receive your full comp. Trail/fee holdbacks are typical.



For those of you that think threatening to leave will change their minds, don't hold your breath. So far, lots of big producers at both ML and BAI have jumped ship and management has not responded. It's frustrating, but B of A has always cut pay when it acquired a firm in the past. As have, always will.



I can say so far that it seems the ML guys are getting more of the benefits from the merger than are the BAI guys. I hear they are getting high balance leads and CD maturity leads to call on. Now, I know most of those leads are prospects that have been worked in the past, but leads are leads.



On a side note, I know many ML guys that are fine and can't say that they have egos. Let's face it, as Advisors in general, we are all competitive and this business can make us A$$holes from time to time. It's better that we stick together as in industry and keep a positive image for our clients. Worse thing you can do is bad mouth another broker or company during these tough times.









Jun 4, 2009 11:14 am

Omar, you are correct. I saw the response above and pasted the text here. I have no dog in this hunt to be clear. This back and forth is a riot!

Bank Of America Denies Our Merrill Shakeup Story (BAC)
John Carney|Jun. 3, 2009, 5:07 PM|12 Print
Tags:
Wall Street, <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/financial-services" target="_blank">Financial Services</a>, <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/merrill-lynch" target="_blank">Merrill Lynch</a>, <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/bank-of-america" target="_blank">Bank of America</a> </div><br><br>Bank of America (BAC) sent out an internal email to employees today

warning them that a false story was circulating about Merrill Lynch.
The email memo went out to employees across America around 1 P.M.
today, warning employees to be wary of a story about the firm that the
memo said was "fictitious."

We have a feeling that this was Merrill's way of trying to calm its
employees' worries over our story about the impending departure of
brokerage head Dan Sontag and changes to compensation. Earlier today
Merrill Lynch declined our offer to give the firm space for on the
record comments denying any specific details of our story.


Now spokeswoman Selena Morris claims the story isn't true, according to TheStreet.com's Dan Freed.
"It's completely without merit," Morris tells Freed. She apparently
declined to offer specifics to Freed either, so its hard to tell which
part of the story she is denying.


We stand by our story, and we are confident in the accuracy of our
reporting and our sources. As we noted in our original story, the
planned management shakeup and changes to compensation could be undone
by "last minute maneuvers." One possibility is that the firm will
scramble to cover for itself after seeing the reaction to our
publication of the management and compensation plans. If anything,
we're hearing that the turmoil at the firm is only increasing, with big
time financial advisers contemplating leaving.


Sontag could not be reached directly.


Jun 5, 2009 8:24 am

What a dumb story. Clearly its sensationalism on behalf of the author. Every one take notice, if its happens at ML it will happen to other firms within two years.

Jun 5, 2009 11:16 am

The rumor about potential compensation changes at ML/BofA down the road is really not isolated to that company. For years foreign owned firm's have had heated boardroom brawls over US broker comp.  HSBC's US wealth management for example has talked about implementing the Euro compensation model as it is in the UK and other markets. The have not because of how distasteful and anti business it would be. They'd loose the entire sales force.  FAs in the UK, Germany and other countries are paid much more like bankers. Base + bonuses on gross rev, + bonuses for growth, etc.  If you don't grow, about 1/3rd of your variable comp could be bye bye in a given year.  With near draconian intervention and control from the current White house, there's a great deal of pressure to amend compensation.  There's a strong gravitational pull to 'level' off what an FA can earn so to speak. Even more reason I think independence will continue to be THE route to go.

Jun 5, 2009 11:27 am

Let's face it, FAs are paid FAR more than they should be for the actual work performed.

 
This fleecing of the public can't continue forever. 
 
Jun 5, 2009 11:35 am

Does that mean doctors, dentists, CPAs, and attorneys are overpaid too?  I only see my doctor when I'm sick and he charges me or my insurance a few hundred dollars for 15 minutes.  I see my dentist for about 10 minutes all year long but he still charges me or my insurance a couple of hundred dollars for his services.  My CPA buddy tells people to use quickbooks and uses a more advanced version of turbo tax to do taxes.  He charges a few hundred dollars to do a tax return.  I paid my attorney over $1000 to do a simple will a few years ago.  Haven't spoken with him since. 


So, what's your barometer for getting paid far more than we should for the actual work performed?
Jun 5, 2009 11:58 am

You ask a question most of us here would find laughable.. but common sense and free markets are as vanishing amidst this overwrought government intrusion upon virtually every large American enterprise in and effort to take care of us all like babies.   Ask the same question in a year after Obama has his way with congress with this push for socialized medicine.  Ask your Dentist or doctor how comfortable he or she is with the future free market earning potential.  I have 2 in my family who are freaking out.  Moreover, half of us here are probably working for tarped up firms or at least did in the last year. Unless you're building cars in America, who else has lost or given up more control over their business than our industry?? Boards and CEOs are making far fewer key decisions than they used to on things that affect comp. I don't like any talk of tampering with my ability to eat what I hunt either. But, let's admit this, the environment is not the same today as it was even a year ago. It's not crazy to think the model will continue to evolve at the banks/wires just as it did in many ways over the last decades if you look back 10, 20, 30 years.  My Dad's 'good old days' as a broker are chock full of stories and realities that no longer exist for us in the biz.

Jun 5, 2009 12:58 pm
Spaceman Spiff:

Does that mean doctors, dentists, CPAs, and attorneys are overpaid too?  I only see my doctor when I'm sick and he charges me or my insurance a few hundred dollars for 15 minutes.  I see my dentist for about 10 minutes all year long but he still charges me or my insurance a couple of hundred dollars for his services.  My CPA buddy tells people to use quickbooks and uses a more advanced version of turbo tax to do taxes.  He charges a few hundred dollars to do a tax return.  I paid my attorney over $1000 to do a simple will a few years ago.  Haven't spoken with him since. 


So, what's your barometer for getting paid far more than we should for the actual work performed?
 
You're comparing apples to asphalt, Spiff. Come on, man.