BILLIONS BON VOYAGE: Merrill Advisor Escapes With Billions; Embraces First Republic

Do they even care? And if not, why don’t they care about the billions in client assets abandoning a once-venerable brand on a monthly basis? These questions deserve to be unpacked given the massive exodus away from Merrill Lynch, and by extension, Bank of America.  

Another high profile advisor, this time in Palo Alto, California, took advantage headed elsewhere. 

Here are the particulars: “Arif Ahmed, who has spent his 20-year brokerage career with Merrill, led his 10-person team to the San Francisco-based bank, according to people familiar with the move.”

“They managed about $4 billion of client assets, putting them in the top tier of Merrill Private Wealth Management (formerly PBIG) brokers who cater to multi-millionaire customers, the sources said.”

Twenty years at Merrill, 10-person team, $4 billion in client assets… gone. And what isn’t mentioned above, Mr. Ahmed stuck it out through the BofA transition for a decade, giving the bank every opportunity to impress him. Obviously they didn’t make the grade. 

A few weeks ago a $6 billion team joined Dynasty. Now, a $4 billion team sprints to First Republic. These aren’t $800k advisors cashing a check. These are culture statements, pure and simple. 

We wonder aloud here and now – what is the conversation like amongst Merrill and BofA leadership? More legal constraints? A fresh round of retention bonuses tied to a 5-7 year commitment? Seriously, what can they do to stem the tide? 

And not to completely besmirch wirehouses at large – at least UBS is discussing adding an RIA channel and Wells Fargo has a large independent operation. 

Anyone remember when Merrill Lynch employed better than 17,000 brokers. Those were the days, huh? I guess we are all getting a glimpse of what occurs when firm culture is completely moved away from.

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