Merrill Lynch launched a new marketing campaign Monday called help2, which includes the iconic Merrill bull logo. It will cost the firm $20 million in the fourth quarter, the most Merrill has ever spent on marketing, according to Sallie Krawcheck, the new head of global wealth and investment management.
“The bull is back,” said Krawcheck, at a press conference at the Bank of America office tower in New York City. The campaign is meant to signify three things: The one to one relationship between the advisor and the client, the combination of Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, and a move toward exponentially better advice, she said.
Krawcheck, hired by Bank of America in early August, spoke optimistically about the strength of morale among the thundering herd and the benefits of integration between Merrill Lynch and Bank of America. Recruiting of advisors is net positive at Merrill and has been since late summer, she said, with 46 net new advisors at the firm last week, and 181 net in the past five weeks. Total advisor headcount, she says, is currently at 14,994. (Krawcheck said the wealth management team doesn’t have a set target for advisor headcount, but is working on coming up with one.) Meanwhile, Merrill advisors have gotten 48,000 referrals from the consumer banking side of the business year to date, driving nearly $100 million in revenues to the wealth management division. “Within Bank of America there are enough affluent customers with over $250,000 in assets to provide 25,000 referrals per month for the next 50 years,” she said.
Krawcheck joked and cajoled and leaned casually on the podium, making quips about how she spent a year on her couch in sweat pants before Bank of America called her up. But ultimately, she says, the time off allowed her to carefully consider whether she wanted to start her own firm in the wealth management business, and what that would look like. By the time she got a call from Bank of America, at the end of July, she had decided that the big firms are best positioned to serve high net worth clients, so the bank’s courtship of her was short and sweet. She reported to work as head of global wealth and investment management just over a week after they first gave her a ring, on Monday August 3. Krawcheck left her post as head of the global wealth management business at Smith Barney in September of 2008.
When asked about speculation that she might be a potential replacement for Ken Lewis, who stepped down as CEO last week, Krawcheck said she didn’t have any comment other than to say that she loves the wealth management business. “The outlook for us is very strong,” she said. “It’s up to us to execute on the strategy and the dream that Ken [Lewis] and the board had.”`