The bad news continues to flow out of Merrill Lynch. The firm has just announced a freeze on the hiring of all support staff and analysts. In effect, if producers lose a sales assistant, they won’t be able to bring in a new one. This move impacts the everyday routine of running a book of business for advisors. Assistants and analysts are integral to the white glove service advisors’ endeavor to provide. Without such staff, advisors will have to take more time attending to research, data input, systems, and technology – taking away time from live time with clients and potentially bringing in new ones.
Andy Sieg has been relentless in his siege on advisors. The overarching theme is a drastic change in business culture and the way in which advisors are to conduct business, if not in compliance, the message is get out. Advisors have been leaving in droves. In January, Sieg, when asked what matters most to advisors stated, “I think that they certainly value capabilities. I mean, all strong advisors, they wake up every day thinking about, ‘how can I do the best job possible for my clients?’ And so that means they need a set of capabilities, a set of tools, whether we’re talking about our technology, underlying products, specialists.” Hm. Sieg states he is trying to empower advisors with every tool they need to succeed, reading the tea leaves, Sieg can’t stop himself from saying the opposite of what he is really doing. When we look at the bottom line under Sieg’s management, is what he is doing truly helping the overall business picture at Merrill? We think not. For all of 2022, Merrill’s wealth management units reported net AUM flows of $20.7 billion—or nearly $800 million less than what was recorded for only the fourth quarter of 2021. Sieg is all about bravado and hot air, nothing else.
Roger Gershman who runs a boutique consulting firm stated, “we’ve seen this nonsensical pattern out of Merrill for years now. Freezing support staff hiring continues to hurt advisors and the clients they serve.”
The thundering herd is losing its thunder day after day, in time the Merrill bull might end up just like Ferdinand, setting in the flowers daydreaming with nothing else to do because all the advisors and business is gone.