Bank Of America To Sign Protocol, Herd Still Weighing Options

Bank of America intends to sign the so-called “broker protocol,” an agreement signed by most of the brokerage firms and RIAs stipulating what client information is acceptable for a departing financial advisor to take without getting sued by the former employer. But when?

Bank of America intends to sign the so-called “broker protocol,” an agreement signed by most of the brokerage firms and RIAs stipulating what client information is acceptable for a departing financial advisor to take without getting sued by the former employer. But when?

A Bank Of America/Merrill memo, released to FAs yesterday, says a “plan” is in place for the combined platform of the two firms “to be a member of the Protocol for Recruiting Brokers.” A spokesperson for both Bank of America and Merrill Lynch confirmed the validity of the memo, which is printed below. No details or dates were announced. Merrill is already a signatory to the protocol; BofA Investment Services is not. The question remains: Will BofA sign before Merrill FCs have to sign? Merrill advisors have until November 14 to sign their retention package agreements, Registered Rep. has learned.

Signing the protocol won’t solve all the outstanding questions. The language of the retention package has caused concern among Merrill advisors regarding retail client relationships. Even Merrill’s top 50—the ones who stand to benefit the most from signing the retention agreement—have gone as far as to seek legal counsel. They are currently working on their own version of the retention agreement. A lively debate has ensued on RegisteredRep.com’s advisor forum.

Meanwhile, recruiters report Merrill Lynch FAs are indeed entertaining offers from other firms, but defections have not reached extraordinary levels at this point.

To: All Merrill Lynch and BAI financial advisors

On October 24, Bank of America and Merrill Lynch announced transition programs for retaining financial advisors. Today, Bank of America and Merrill Lynch are pleased to announce a plan for the combined brokerage platform to be a member of the Protocol for Recruiting Brokers. This is one of the initial decisions coming out of the transition assessment process that is currently underway in preparation for Bank of America's acquisition of Merrill Lynch, which is scheduled to close on or after December 31, 2008, subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals.

Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated is currently a member of the protocol and will remain a member after the transaction closes. Merrill Lynch FAs will continue to be able to move between protocol member firms as permitted by the protocol.

Banc of America Investment Services, Inc. (BAI) is not currently a member of the protocol. The transition team is currently determining the specifics of how and when BAI will become a member of the protocol. Additional details will be communicated prior to the closing of the merger.

“Today’s announcement is one example of how we’re moving quickly to bring together Bank of America and Merrill Lynch,” said Keith Banks, president of Bank of America’s Global Wealth & Investment Management division. “This work will help ensure we maximize the benefits of this combination to better serve our clients.”

“We were one of three founding members of the recruiting protocol,” added Robert McCann, vice chairman and president, Global Wealth Management at Merrill Lynch. “Over the last few years, it has worked well for both our Financial Advisors and our clients."

If you have any questions, please contact your manager.

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