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May 22, 2006 1:45 pm


I was recently offered the POA position at Merrill, and right now I'm desperately trying to figure out whether to join ML at a 35k salary or join a consulting firm that pays 55k. This seems to ultimately be a question of risk vs. reward because while the long term outlook at Merrill can be very fruitful, the dangers of not meeting my hurdles is very possible.

The fact that ML is asking me to bring in 15 MM in 2 years seems like a difficult goal. I believe I was hired because I have a very specific target niche market. However, although this particular client market has a lot of money, they have very little experience with investments, and are thus adverse to risk. What is necessary is a building of trust through smaller accounts (most likely between 50-150k, with a couple high net worth 500k+ accounts). It takes time gain this trust, and I don't know if 2 years is really enough.  

On the other hand, the consulting firm offers a great salary for someone coming out of college, and there is relatively risk when comparing with the ML position.  

This forum has invaluable to me for gathering insight into the life of an FA. In some postings, there are those that think if Merrill makes you an offer, you should without question take it. Others seem to think that Merrill gives the job to any joe on the street. I would deeply appreciate your opinions on my situation. Thank you for any experienced advice you can give me.

Thanks and have a good one.

May 22, 2006 6:36 pm

Take the consulting job for 2 yrs., build up a long list of contacts, and then think about moving to ML.  I started with MS right out of college.  I’ve “made it” but most don’t.  It takes hard work, long hours, and luck.  If I didn’t have the 3rd ingredient I’d be on my second carreer.

May 22, 2006 6:47 pm

The consulting job itself requires near constant travel. While I will be able to build a list of contacts, the network itself will be spatially spread out. I wonder if this would hinder my chances of success if I decide to join ML later on.

I appreciate your response, MWD. Although you said it took hard work and luck, how did you make it as a young guy? Did you know a lot of wealthy people, target a niche market, cold call, etc?.

Thanks again.

May 22, 2006 9:38 pm

You cannot hit the hurdles at ML with 50-150k accounts.  Its just
not possible unless your contacts are lined up outside your cubicle
from day 1 with a pen in hand…  If ALL your accounts are $250,000
(priority household), you will need THIRTY of these each year to keep
up.  The leader in my office brought in around 10-15 priority
households last year, and I’m not talking about the leader of the POA
group.  The leader of the entire office.   

May 22, 2006 10:20 pm

Thanks Scorpio,

So even though you say its impossible for me to hit the hurdles with smaller accounts, I would have to assume that you and other POAs have indeed made it through the program. How did you do it? To get through POA, what was the average size account you typically took in?

Although I know Merrill Lynch's goal is for their FA's to bring in high net worth clients, I really wish they didn't impose the high 15 MM two year requirement. The clients I will take in are indeed high-net worth, but they most likely require time in order for them to hand over the bulk of their assets. If instead I was given 3-4 years, once relationships were firmly established, I would be able to bring exponentially more than just 15 million. This ML business model seems a bit flawed because it doesn't take these factors into consideration.

May 23, 2006 12:04 am

Another approach–start somewhere else and develop the skills, contacts, clients, trust and confidence of said contacts & clients, and then move “up” to ML when that 3-5 (or 10 or whatever) years are up.  You can make a living on 100-250k accounts just fine, not to mention get handsomely compensated by ML to come on board once you’ve proven you’ll be a viable FA long term…nice to be wanted by them instead of trying to figure out how to get them to hire you.

May 23, 2006 1:54 am

I agree, some big firms just want to get anyone to do the job for them due to the high turnover rate of employees, so it shd be better for you to start somewhere else, and then think if you want to get into ML or not, becoz frankly speaking, I think there is a lot of strict regulation for FA in big firm like ML, it’s hard for you to leave w/ ur book once u realize that you can’t make it.

May 23, 2006 12:35 pm

So it seems that the general consensus is that the best path is consulting. Its kind of disheartening because I’ve been wanting to attack this particular target market for awhile now, but ML’s requirements would most like hinder my relationship building plan. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I pretty sure I could have done it 3 years…

May 23, 2006 12:51 pm

Is your niche ethnic or religious?  Mine is religion based and it does take a while.

May 23, 2006 1:34 pm

It's actually a combination of both... think of it as a ven diagram of clients.

Is there anyone out there who was a successful POA that can give me some insight concerning average account sizes and methodology?

May 23, 2006 8:42 pm


I'm curious... when you say religious, do you mean just members of a church or do you actually go after the church's own assets? I was wondering this myself, and wanted to know if it was feasible to manage a church's funds.

May 24, 2006 8:38 am


I was recently offered the POA position at Merrill, and right now I'm desperately trying to figure out whether to join ML at a 35k salary or join a consulting firm that pays 55k. [/quote]

Who is the consulting firm?  If it's a top five then I would say that hands down your best option is to go with consulting. 

Be careful.  If you think that ML POA will be tough then you may want to not even think about management consulting.  I passed up a move to MC because I didn't want to jeopardize my marriage.  The 80+ hour work weeks and constant travel are the norm in the industry.  If I were single and five years younger, I could not imagine a more rewarding place to be.  The experience and network you can build up at a top MC firm is invaluable.

Maybe it's just my impresion, but look at the background for CEOs at fortune 100 firms.  Many (not all, so let's not get off topic) have had a stint at McKinsey, Bain, BCG and the like.