The industry is changing—and you’d better be prepared to change with it. That was Bob McCann’s message to attendees of SIFMA’s 30th annual Sales and Marketing conference in New York City this morning.
McCann, president of Merrill Lynch’s Global Private Client Group, and this year’s keynote speaker, focused his attention on globalization and the “new” wealthy client. The great globalization debate about its pros and cons is over: “That ship has sailed,” he says. People, businesses, and markets from all parts of the world are connecting, and that’s good news for clients looking for a more international approach to investing.
For Merrill, that means more opportunities abroad. McCann says his firm owns 90 percent of the joint ventures in India. And outside of the U.S., India is where Merrill recruits most of its financial advisors.
Globalization also brings wealth creation that has no boundaries, McCann says. For instance, young, tech-savvy students have launched some of the most successful entrepreneurial projects. MySpace, the online social networking Website was developed by two men in their twenties who sold the company for almost $600 million. YouTube, the video-sharing Website, was also developed by young men in the same age group, and sold to tech-behemoth, Google, for $1.65 billion in stock. Moreover, the Asia Pacific region had the largest increase of high-net-worth individuals (at least $1 million) with an 8.6 percent growth, according to one report. “All of this paints a different picture of what wealthy clients look like, and it’s an indicator of what the industry is likely to be going after,” he says.
But, he added, “with so much change, there is one thing that will remain constant—the need for knowledgeable and talented financial advisors.” The need to create relationships with these clients is still a priority in the industry, and management needs to keep developing better ways to better connect advisors with their clients. “As proud as I am of Merrill Lynch, clients don’t do business with the bull, rather they do business with their trusted financial advisor—and we have to be able to support them,” he says.
After discussing the importance of efficient technology for advisors, and new programs Merrill is rolling out for its advisors (including a pilot program that will decrease the time its takes to open a new account from 30 minutes to nine minutes), Stifel Nicolaus president, Scott McCuaig, joked that Merrill may be the first firm to open a branch on Mars.
(Click here to read more about McCann.)