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Merrill Diversity Report Deepened Client Ties, Says Black FA

By Miriam Rozen November 23, 2020

Merrill Lynch’s recent publication of information about the number of Black financial advisors on its roster has helped deepen client relationships and strengthened business, according to Christopher Jay, a Black advisor at the wirehouse.

“It’s opened the door to have more personal and real conversations with clients, which feels good, because we are life advisors,” Jay said last week at the CFP Board’s 2020 Diversity Summit and Career Fair.

“But also, there’s an economic benefit for us as well,” he added.

Since Merrill Lynch published the data, clients have become more comfortable talking about diversity efforts, Jay said. “It strengthens the tie that much more with clients to where they feel that much more confident, and trusting in your abilities, because they’re getting to know a different dimension of you that that, you know, up to this point has been kind of off limits,” he added.

Jay is senior vice president of The Jay Bergeson Group at Merrill Lynch in Seattle and also a member of the Merrill Diversity and Inclusion Executive Council. His team has more than $400 million in client assets, according to a Forbes 2019 report.

In August, Merrill Lynch released for the first time the breakdown of its minority financial advisors.

Among Merrill Lynch Wealth Management’s roughly 17,500 FAs, 4.5% are Black, 9% are Latinx and 21% are women, the firm reported.

The percentage breakdown translates to around 780 Black, about 1,570 Latinx and about 3,650 female Merrill Lynch FAs, Andy Sieg, the president of Merrill Lynch, told FA-IQ at the time.

Merrill Lynch also said at the time that its total FA headcount has grown 10% since 2015. Over the same period, its percentage of Black FAs has grown by 88%, Latinx FAs by 54% and female FAs by 17%, the wirehouse said.

Sieg, who spoke earlier in the day at the same CFP Board Summit, advocated for peer wirehouses to join Merrill Lynch in its openness.

“It became clear to us that full transparency was overdue. I hope others will join us,” Sieg said.

At the time of Merrill’s report, only UBS Americas among the other wirehouses had released some minority FA data.

About 1% of the 6,500 UBS Americas FAs are Black and 10% are people of color, Business Insider reported in June, citing the remarks of UBS Americas president Tom Naratil, who is also co-president of UBS Global Wealth Management, in an internal town hall meeting held virtually.

Naratil also said UBS intends to add 200 Black FAs by 2025, Business Insider reported. A person familiar with the matter confirmed Naratil’s comments to FA-IQ.

Spokespeople for Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo did not respond to a request for comments for this story.

Do you have a news tip you’d like to share with FA-IQ? Email us ateditorial@financialadvisoriq.com.

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Tags:  Finding and winning new clients , Client retention , Staffing and recruiting , Regulatory/legal issues , Behavioral finance , Marketing , Merrill Lynch , Morgan Stanley , Wells Fargo , UBS

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