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Coming Home: Exec Returns to Merrill to Run Affluent Strategy

Bank of America Merrill Lynch lured a former BlackRock executive out of retirement to head up the firm’s affluent segment and strategy. For Mike Bitterly, the move is a homecoming of sorts, having started his career with Merrill Lynch as an advisor before heading to Blackrock in 2006.

Mike Bitterly

“It’s like coming home,” Bitterly said Wednesday. “John [Thiel] didn’t have to twist my arm too much.”

Bitterly started his career as an advisor with Merrill in 1987 and later entering the firm's management development program in 1996. After being named head of global sales at Merrill Lynch Investment Managers in 2002, Bitterly moved to Blackrock following a merger of the two in 2006. Bitterly then served as global head of BlackRock's wealth management business, playing a significant role in the merger transition and continuing to manage the Merrill Lynch relationship. Bitterly announced his retirement from BlackRock in October 2013.

Bitterly calls his short-lived retirement an "intermission," saying the break allowed him to take some time and look for the next challenge. "It didn't take much [to get me to return]," Bitterly says, adding he was excited to return to Merrill.

In his new role as head of Merrill’s affluent segment and strategy—which includes clients with assets from $250,000 to $10 million—Bitterly takes over from Ted Durkin, who was involved in developing products for affluent clients. Durkin moved into the role of complex director for advisors in Delaware and Pennsylvania in May, following several leadership changes last month.

Bitterly is confident he can guide Merrill’s affluent business development, saying he will leverage his working knowledge of the firm’s structure, as well as his experience in managing a sales force. “I’m not an outsider,” he says.

Moreover, his experience as an advisor is an asset in the role, which calls for working with all business units to develop solutions for Merrill’s affluent clients. “I’ve always had my hand on the pulse of the end client, as well as the FAs,” Bitterly says, noting his experience as an advisor allows him to tap into the mindset of brokers and what they need.

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