Maybe this was the plan all along, when a shotgun wedding occurred in 2009. Bank of America was given control of Merrill Lynch and its 90 year history as the preeminent wealth management brand in the United States, and has systematically marginalized its advisors, brand, reputation, and overall standing within the industry.
The latest Bank of America commercial, dubbed “A Single Defining Moment”. The commercial mentions ‘Merrill’, not Merrill Lynch and at the end of the commercial the Merrill Lynch logo is wiped out in favor of Bank of America’s logo in less than a second. The entire spot is a testament as to how the bank views Merrill Lynch and its advisors – a division of the bank with the mandate to move as much product as possible.
It still is remarkable that the name has essentially been shortened to just ‘Merrill’ by the bank. No longer Merrill Lynch as its been known and revered for decades and decades. Just Merrill. Like the name of a legacy intern fresh out of a private university starting at a branch in Connecticut. Seriously.
The constant leak of advisors from Merrill that are of scale is the only story that matters. Irrespective of name changes and cultural appropriation – who leaves and the assets they take with them is what matters. And that continues unabated. No matter what additional headcount via bank branches or Merrill Edge add up to, the biggest advisors at Merrill continue to move to less constrictive pastures.
Still, the commercial is striking and revealing unto itself. Emblematic in many ways. The thundering herd is no longer what it used to be, no longer thundering, and no longer the largest herd on the street. Bank of America has hollowed it out, and not looking back.