(Adds details on Sontag's career, investor comment and
background of McCann departure)
By Elinor Comlay
NEW YORK Jan 6 Bank of America Corp (BAC.N)
named Dan Sontag, a 30-year veteran of recently acquired unit
Merrill Lynch, to head the brokerage's wealth management
business, filling a spot vacated by the recent departure of
Sontag previously headed wealth management for the
Americas, according to an internal memo whose contents were
confirmed by a Merrill Lynch spokeswoman.
Bank of America, which agreed to buy Merrill Lynch on the
same weekend that Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc LEHMQ.PK
tumbled into bankruptcy, is under pressure to show it can
manage the integration of Merrill's 16,850-strong retail
Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis has called the brokerage, the
world's largest, the investment bank's "crown jewel," but
McCann's departure, days after the deal's completion, unnerved
"All these managerial changes are not good for Bank of
America right now," said Cassandra Toroian, chief investment
officer of Bell Rock Capital in Paoli, Pennsylvania.
Bank of America has offered hefty retention packages to the
top performing brokers at Merrill Lynch, for periods of up to
Those measures, combined with the management of a long-time
veteran of the business, will likely cushion the blow of
McCann's departure, experts said.
Sontag, whose father also worked for Merrill, was
previously in charge of the wealth management unit's main
business and had been at Merrill Lynch for even longer than
McCann, who had been with the firm for 26 years.
"McCann was a legendary figure. He had a very loyal
following, but a lot of the private client brokers have been
very successful in their own right," said David McCormack, a
recruiter who formerly worked at Merrill.
Compensation, not necessarily management, is the key to
keeping the advisory business from unraveling, said one former
But even with retention packages, some brokers will still
"It's important that they have these brokers locked up but
that's not to say that someone isn't going to come along and
buy them out," said Bell Rock's Toroian.
But management changes at the top will likely have little
impact on most brokers, a former broker said.
"The most important thing is compensation," he said. "As
long as the advisers feel the organization values what they do,
then they don't really care who's running the place," he
(Reporting by Elinor Comlay; Editing by Andre Grenon)