Learn About Merrill Lynch

Get Info on Profile, History, Career Opportunities and More

ML-bull-logo.jpg
The famous bull logo was adopted in 1974. ® Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Merrill Lynch is a major integrated financial services firm, acquired by Bank of America in 2008. Its lines of business include:

Job Openings: See this listing of job openings at Merrill Lynch.

Size: The firm is the industry’s largest, across multiple dimensions, including:

  • Financial Advisors = over 15,500
  • Research Analysts = over 700
  • Assets in Client Accounts = $2.5 trillion
  • Average revenue per financial advisor = approximately $1 million

These figures are as of year end 2014. The revenue per financial advisor makes Merrill Lynch the industry leader in this productivity measure.

History and Corporate Culture

The Merrill Lynch Principles have long been cited as a model statement of corporate values and standards, as well as a reliable window into the firm's culture, in past decades. In 2010, the launch of Merrill Edge represented the firm's first foray into discount brokerage.

Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management (MLGWM) is a division that focuses on high net worth clients with over $250,000 in total investable assets. According to company literature, it offers a "high touch client experience."

Positives

The firm’s comprehensive lines of business and worldwide footprint offer extensive career opportunities, including possibilities for gaining experience in multiple sectors of the industry.

Its long reputation as an industry leader makes a tour of duty there a great enhancement to your resume, should you later seek career options elsewhere.

Before cutbacks starting roughly in 2001, Merrill Lynch had a long history as the premier developer of new financial advisors, with a large and highly-respected training program.

However, in recent years the firm has undertaken some initiatives to hire and train new college graduates as financial advisors.

Negatives

Huge, multi-billion dollar losses and writedowns in 2007-09 wiped out 2-3 years' worth of prior profits. Merrill Lynch has had extreme cyclicality in employment over the past two decades, with total employment swinging between troughs of about 40,000 (in 1987 and 2003) and peaks of around 60,000 (in 2001 and 2007) employees. The acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America has shored up the company's financial position but leaves questions about future strategic direction. One example of this confusion is the decision in 2009 to drop the familiar bull logo, one of the best-known corporate trademarks anywhere and thus an integral part of the Merrill Lynch brand, followed by a reversal in 2010, with a new ad campaign featuring the bull logo.

Various press reports indicate that a large number of veteran Merrill Lynch financial advisors have become disenchanted with the strategic direction of the firm under Bank of America leadership, spurring defections to rivals. Boutique wealth management firms apparently have become especially attractive employers of seasoned Merrill Lynch financial advisors with large books of business.

The chief concerns among Merrill Lynch financial advisors are:

  • Forced movement of smaller clients to Merrill Edge
  • Being pressured to push Bank of America products, in a cross-selling drive
  • Tarnishing of the Merrill Lynch brand by its association with troubled and mass-market Bank of America, especially after Merrill Lynch's return to robust profitability
  • Diminished autonomy under a Bank of America culture that values strict adherence to rules and procedures over putting clients' interests and convenience first (for example, a private banking team managing over $2.5 billion was dismissed for helping clients to pay bills, but not through the firm's official bill paying system)

In 2014, the firm lost 45 advisors with over $18.6 billion in client assets. This was the biggest such loss in any firm. In 2013, Merrill lost $10.1 of client assets as a result of defeating brokers.

(Source: "Merrill loses advisers managing $18.6 billion in 2014," Investment News, January 8, 2015.)