Merrill FAs Get More ‘Concierges’ to Help Clients with Consumer Banking

By Miriam Rozen October 15, 2020

Bank of America has doubled its wealth management banker headcount to 400, according to a senior Merrill Lynch executive who declines to be named.

BofA has hired 200 of the wealth management bankers — who are tasked with providing concierge banking services to the clients of Merrill’s FAs — since the third quarter of 2019, the executive told reporters yesterday after the release of the bank’s third quarter earnings results.

The wealth management bankers provide “white-glove service” for Merrill FAs and their clients, the executive said. They are “creating a very strong connection” between Merrill and BofA’s consumer banking unit, he added.

BofA plans to hire more wealth management bankers this year, the executive said, without providing any estimates.

The wealth management bankers assist the clients of Merrill FAs with their checking account, savings account, credit card, mobile and online banking needs, a Merrill spokesperson tells FA-IQ. Other wealth management specialists — including wealth management lending officers and credit specialists — help the clients of Merrill FAs with other needs, such as mortgages and structured credit, the spokesperson adds.

The wealth management bankers are currently working from home, but once BofA eases its pandemic-related work restrictions, they will be located in Merrill branches, the executive said. By having wealth management bankers in the Merrill branches, the FAs’ clients can get their consumer banking services needs met without going to a BofA branch, the executive added.

Merrill remains in the “limited opening stages of a phased approach” to opening its offices in accordance with guidance from medical experts, the wirehouse’s spokesperson says, without elaborating. Employees will receive 30 days’ notice about returning to offices, the spokesperson said.

The costs associated with the wealth management bankers are charged to BofA’s wealth management unit, which includes Merrill, the executive said.

The wealth management unit had $3.5 billion in non-interest expenses in the third quarter, up 3% year-over-year. The non-interest expenses rose primarily because of an increase in production-linked compensation of FAs and partly due to the costs of adding the new wealth management bankers, the executive said.

The compensation of Merrill FAs is not dinged when their clients use the wealth management banker’s services, the executive said.

Meanwhile, the executive said the pause imposed on Merrill trainees’ cold-calling of prospects has had “no material impact” on the wirehouse’s client acquisition. Historically, only about 10% of Merrill’s total new clients flowed from its trainees’ efforts, he said.

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