Andy Seig has limited to zero credibility left with top tier Merrill advisors left at the firm. When he speaks, nobody listens. When he green lights a new initiative like ‘Project Thunder’ nobody listens. And when he speaks in corporate vague double talk… he’s quickly ignored.
His lack of influence was on display in the last ten days after the announcement of Project Thunder (who came up with that name?). Advisors we spoke to in every corner of the country simply rolled their eyes, while 90% ignored the details of the memo altogether.
Here are several quotes from Merrill advisors we spoke to in the past week:
“My partner and I thought it was laughable. There are no details, no increases to our bottom line in any way. And who came up with that name? It’s a clown show in the C-suite here. Stuff like this only proves it.”
“…it’s more like Tropic Thunder from that guy and his internal bank based PR folks. He’s a puppet of BofA.”
“Wake me up when they announce next year’s grid. If I had to guess, this is window dressing for more shenanigans to our comp, I’d even bet on it.”
“Nobody listens anymore. There is no trust. Zero culture. Using the term ‘Thunder’ as a marketing ploy is even more lame.”
It seems that cynical is the word of the day to describe the vibe at Merrill Lynch. And the proof remains in the pudding, or in this case, data. Large teams leave every week. Every single week.
And we hear, that teams that are in the fence are waiting for another shoe to drop with comp grid changes to give them the final push out the door. Based on recent history, you should probably bet on it.
It isn’t enough that Merrill Lynch is now just Merrill. It isn’t enough that more than half of your colleagues that you respect have left the firm. It isn’t enough that Andy Sieg thinks that advisor attrition is ‘seasonal’. It isn’t enough that no matter your loyalty to the thundering herd and the Merrill brand – BofA just doesn’t give a sh%t about you.
That reality was hammered home again early this week with conversations we had with two large and well known teams. Beyond the cultural rot inherent at BofA/Merrill, the compliance burden has gotten nearly unbearable.
From an advisor on the east coast, “It is hard to describe the insults that come disguised as compliance on a weekly basis. I’ve got a perfect record and have put real effort into being a Merrill guy over the years. But almost every week I’m getting pinged by compliance over dotted i’s and crossed t’s.”
“An example last week… I sent an email to a client with some good news that their mortgage rates had ticked lower by a quarter point. Less than 4 hours later I got a compliance letter that I have to respond to regarding ‘quoting rates’ in a correspondence. It’s like I’m being treated like a trainee or bank broker. And responding to this shit takes time away from growing the business. It’s constant and makes it harder to do business here.”
We did a little digging and found that this has been common practice with BofA over the past year or so. Every email, every text, every syllable is scrutinized. And if you trip up, you’ve given them cause for termination.
We put together a short podcast Q&A with Brian Neville that speaks to the issues that have caused big Merrill teams to exit the firm week after week. The revelations he shared associated with surveillance were mind blowing. When tied to the above quotes it paints a picture of a legal ‘overstate’ at BofA that is cause for serious concern.
Another reminder that more than 200 teams with $1B or more in assets have left Merrill in the past four years. Read that again. It’s becoming increasingly easy to understand why.
No reasonable participant in the wealth management landscape would argue against the erosion of the once and former strongest culture in the space: Merrill Lynch.
Under the leadership of Bank of America and Andy Sieg Merrill Lynch culture has evaporated, utterly and completely. In a prescient moment with an advisor last week, we found the essence of that epic erosion:
“Call me on my burner phone, everything else is monitored.”
Six words that should scare anyone that still works at BofA/Merrill. Call me on my burner phone. It’s like this guy is acutely aware that if he makes even the slightest misstep the ‘cartel’ that is BofA will show up unannounced and end their career.
The concern and need for a burner phone is certainly well founded. More than $200B in (NET) client assets have exited the firm in the past four years. A reminder that no other firm in the industry comes close to those numbers.
To break that down further, that’s 100 of the biggest teams in the industry. Based on publicly available data, the top 1% of the industry (advisors and teams) manage more than $2B in client assets. So BofA/Merrill has lost ONE HUNDRED of those teams in the past four years. That is a remarkable stat.
There are endless analogies that would drive home the need for a burner phone as a Merrill advisor. No matter which you use, any culture that forces you to use one can be summed up in one word: toxic.