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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.

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