Merrill Lynch is dividing its sales force of 16,000 retail brokers into three categories: Financial Advisors (formerly called Financial Consultants) for everyday investors with less than $1 million, Wealth Management Advisors serving clients with $1 million to $10 million and Private Wealth Advisors dedicated to investors with $10 million or more.
U.S. Private Client Group President Stan O’Neal announced the changes March 12 during an “Investor Day 2001” presentation. “Our objective is to gain market share in every segment,” he said, “especially at the high end.”
However, O’Neal insisted that Merrill is not abandoning its smaller clients. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “We’re serving different segments in different ways.”
For example, Merrill has renamed its Investor Services Group, which caters to clients with less than $100,000 through call centers in New Jersey and Florida. It is now called the Merrill Lynch Financial Advisory Center, O’Neal said.
The firm plans to triple the number of Series 7 registered reps serving clients in these centers, bringing the sales force up to 240 brokers, he said.
And even within the new Financial Advisory Center, Merrill is segmenting its services. All clients have a “team-based relationship” with call center brokers, O’Neal said. Clients with $20,000 in assets at the firm will receive two telephone calls a year to review their portfolios, and clients with $50,000 or more will receive service from a “dedicated team,” he said.
O’Neal said Merrill has also launched a program to transition clients back to full-service brokers in the branches once their assets reach a certain level.
Finally, Merrill is giving branch managers more authority to decide when and where to spend money, according to O’Neal. He said BOMs have four priorities: 1) bring in new money, 2) grow local market share, 3) boost profitability, and 4) groom a new generation of corporate leaders.
“In the wealth management space, the firm with the best people wins,” he said.
A replay of O’Neal’s presentation is available on the firm’s investor relations Web site, www.ir.ml.com.
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