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In several short conversations over the past two weeks, the specter of a Merrill Lynch/BofA protocol exit seems to have found new life.

Despite denials in early 2020 by the firm’s senior management team, that an exit wasn’t on the table short term, nothing was said about it being completely off the table long term either. It seems that omission was either strategic or possibly prophetic.

As we hear it, the continual and aggressive drain of large-scale teams and billions in client assets has given management reason to take another look at the protocol exit moves made by UBS and Morgan Stanley. The decision has certainly served Morgan Stanley well and has become significantly more palatable to advisors at MS.

Merrill Lynch is weighing the pros and cons of executing the same type of strategy. While we may not know how a decision shakes out, or if it simply continues to be a potential weapon that remains on the table should a larger crisis shock the economy at some point – a protocol exit wouldn’t surprise anyone for Merrill and BofA.

In fact, it would be decidedly ‘on brand’.

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