(Corrects in 8th paragraph to show revenue hurdles are annual,
By Michael Leibel
July 21 Merrill Lynch Wealth Management told its
brokers on Monday it is starting a new track in its training
program that will help fill skill gaps on teams and potentially
develop successors for their practices.
The big brokerage unit owned by Bank of America said
it will enroll some of its trainees in an advanced path that, in
addition to teaching core management skills, focuses on
specializations that immediately allow participants to integrate
with a team starting next month, according to an internal memo
issued to the company's financial advisers.
Large firms such as Merrill, which has almost 14,000
financial advisers, have been encouraging advisers to work in
teams because they tend to be more productive than are brokers
who work individually, and are also less likely to jump to rival
It is currently running its first internship program in
which college undergraduates have been placed directly in
Merrill branches for the summer to learn what brokers are
expected to do.
Merrill expects participants in the newly dubbed Team
Financial Adviser, or TFA, track to complete the 31-month
training regimen with an added concentration in one of the
following specializations: Business Development (new clients);
(Financial) Planning; Investments and Financing; Relationship
Management (defined as deepening existing client relationships
rather than developing new ones); and Business Management
(developing and executing a defined business plan).
"The difference [versus Merrill's Practice Management
Development program] is that you're immediately being tied to a
team, where you're already specialized, and you're going to have
a long-term relationship with that team," Racquel Oden, head of
adviser strategy and development at Merrill, said in an
The program is aimed at advisers as much as at trainees.
Teams that want to hire a TFA must submit a business proposal
identifying the specialization they want to fill and a
performance plan that they and the new hire will be expected to
The firm will assess the plan to determine if there should
be a match. If so, the financial advisers will interview
potential candidates. Once a TFA comes aboard, the team and the
new member will be expected to meet an annual revenue hurdle,
Merrill plans to offer new TFA classes each month, Oden and
Riley Etheridge, Merrill's head of client segments and adviser
development, said in the memo.
"This new role [of TFA] can also allow for succession
planning and building the bridges necessary for the next
generation of advisers to continue to deliver the experience our
clients expect and deserve," the memo said.
Like many securities firms, Merrill Lynch is concerned about
retaining clients of older brokers once they retire. The average
age of financial advisers is in the 50s, and many have not
focused on succession plans, according to numerous industry
(Reporting by Michael Leibel; Editing by Jed Horowitz and Dan