Robert J. McCann is a vice chairman of Merrill Lynch's Wealth Management Group. He has responsibility for the firm's Global Private Client group, for Merrill Lynch Investment Managers (MLIM) and for the firm's Global Securities Research and Economics unit. McCann spoke with Rep. editor David Geracioti about the brokerage giant's hiring plans and other current initiatives.
David Geracioti: Merrill's been doing pretty well through a tough period, and I hear that you've started hiring again. True?
Bob McCann: We added over 600 FA's last year. So, yes, it was a good year. We plan to continue to hire.
DG: What kind of FAs are you looking for?
BM: I would have to put it into three different buckets. One bucket would be FAs with a length of service of two-to-seven years — people who have some experience in the business. In second bucket is the million-dollar producer. We're not interested in just any million-dollar producer. Commitment to the development of a wealth management process, as opposed to a transaction-only process, is important to us.
The third bucket would contain people who might not be FA's right now but have a combination of the technical skills and the communications skills we think it's going to take to be a successful FA. These would participate in our TOA [Task of Achievement] program, where we train people from the ground up.
DG: Where do you think we, as an industry, are in the growth cycle?
BM: I personally think that this will be a challenging year for the market in this business. And I think it's going to be very difficult for some of the small and mid-sized firms to be able to find ways to grow financial advisors or revenue or bottom-line profitability. So I still think that this is an industry that, if not this year, is faced with further consolidation.