Merrill Lynch recruited a team from Morgan Stanley that managed $1.2 billion in client assets.

The nine-person team, led by Bruce Munster, generated $5.8 million in annual revenue while at Morgan. They join Merrill’s elite Private Banking & Investment Group in Century City, Calif., where they report to Michael Rogers, managing director.

A top producer, Munster was recently featured as No. 7 in On Wall Street’s annual ranking of the Top 40 Advisors Under 40.

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OnWallStreet.com took a look at how much top firms pay their $1 million producers. The businesses generally reward such financial advisors with a combination of cash and deferred awards.

 At No. 11 is Wells Fargo Advisors, with a total of $467,180. $459,680 is part of the cash grid, while $7,500 is deferred compensation.

 No. 10 is Morgan Stanley, with $440,000 in cash, and $40,000 in deferred money, for a total of $480,000.

 Merrill Lynch is No. 9, with $495,000 in compensation. Of that, $430,000 is the cash grid, and $65,000 is deferred.

 At No. 8 is Janney, with $450,000 in the cash grid, and $50,000 in deferred money, for a total of $500,000.

 No. 7 is RBC. Producers there get $501,800 in compensation, with $460,000 in cash grid, and $41,800 in deferred money.

 Ameriprise Financial is No. 6, with a total of $505,000. Of that, $460,000 is cash grid money, and $45,000 is deferred compensation.

 Two companies tie for No. 4 with $510,000 in compensation – Wedbush, with $500,000 in cash and $10,000 in deferred money, and Stifel, with $470,000 in cash, and $40,000 in deferred money.

 At No. 3 is Hilliard Lyons, at $512,750. Of that money, $467,750 is cash, and $45,000 is deferred compensation.

 No. 2 is Raymond James, with $522,500 in money. Of that, $455,000 is cash grid money, and $67,500 is deferred funds.

 At the top of the list is UBS, with $526,750 in compensation. That breaks down to $437,500 for the cash grid, and $89,250 in deferred money for the No. 1 company.

Written by Lisa Swan

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Jennifer Williams, Merrill Lynch branch manager for the brokerage house’s Newport Beach, Ca. office, told a Women Advisors Forum Friday that with changing times come changing investment strategies. “We are in an unprecedented opportunity and time,” OnWallStreet.com says she shared with the audience.

Williams talked about how if all the women who own businesses were their own country, they “would be the fifth-largest GDP in the world,” touting that such companies “produce $3 trillion annually” just in the United States.

So Williams shared the following six strategic tips that Merrill Lynch is now implementing with its advisors:

1.    Go global to get a higher yield.

2.    “Buy and hold” has seen better days. Instead, use a more “dynamic approach,” as OnWallStreet.com describes it.

3.    Yield can be achieved with “multi-national stocks through dividend-paying equities,” the article says.

4.    Market bonds are a better choice than U.S. bonds.

5.    Purchase in emerging countries, ones that Williams would not have recommended just a few years ago. She suggested places like Malaysia, Turkey, China, and Nigeria.

6.    Diversify your portfolio by buying commodities.

Williams also encouraged the advisors to look for female clients, saying that they have “an unprecedented need for advice,” given the sheer number of women-owned businesses.

Written By Lisa Swan

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Does Bank of America need to sell the thundering herd? CNBC’s John Carney reports that the big bank is facing both inside and outside pressure to make a “dramatic change,” and that change could include selling Merrill Lynch, the brokerage house the bank bought during the financial crisis.

Some of the issues Bank of America is facing relate to another acquisition it made in recent years – Countrywide Financial. BofA announced that it could have over $20 billion in mortgage expenses in the second quarter, much due to mortgages from Countrywide. In addition, regulations such as the Dodd-Frank Act and the Basel Rule are asking banks to have higher capital. To top it all off, the bank’s stock is down 27 percent in 2011, and dividends can only be paid at just a penny a share until the capital issue has been improved.

That is where possibly selling Merrill Lynch comes in. Carney says that “something must be done to repair the ongoing damage to Bank of America’s shares,” and wonders if “selling or spinning off Merrill” could “do the trick.” The CNBC writer suggests that Merrill Lynch “may be valued more highly outside of Bank of America than inside.” Carney claims that at least three insiders he talked to are “weighing” selling at least part of the bank.

Written By Lisa Swan

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 Morgan Stanley Smith Barney is cutting down on its headcount, FundFire reports, shutting down 32 locations and listing 350 fewer advisors in the third quarter of 2011.

The bank is now down to 772 branches, and its financial advisor headcount has been reduced by 800 over the past year. FundFire says that this lower number is a combination of layoffs and advisors departing for other financial firms.

The banking powerhouse still has more financial advisors than anyone else, with 17,291 as of the end of last month, and has $175 billion in assets for separately managed accounts, the most in the business. But the company is seeing its revenue drop. Assets from customers with $10 million or more invested have dropped from $539 billion to $482 billion over the past three months.

In addition, the “annualized production per advisor” figure went from $785,000 on June 30 to $747,000 on September 30, and the “client assets per advisor” number dropped from $97 million at the end of the second quarter, to $90 million at the end of the third quarter.

A spokeswoman for Morgan Stanley blamed the current state of the economy for the lower figures.  Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch, the firm’s biggest competition, has added 475 financial advisors over the last quarter to reach a total of 16,722.

Written by Lisa Swan

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The wirehouses are always on the hunt for top talent.  Experienced Financial Advisors are in demand and have been for some time.  In 2005, the wirehouses employed 57,262 advisors and at the end of March 2011, the wirehouses employed 50,743 advisors.  This represents a 12 % headcount decline over a five- year period.

The number of advisors at the “Big 4” UBS, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch are stagnant at best. They used to poach from each other, but now that retention deals have been put in place and the pools are shrinking, the wirehouses are aggressively recruiting from alternate and multiple sources. Independent brokers, RIAs, brokers from boutique size financial firms, have all been targeted. 

There are vast culture differences that still need to be overcome if the wirehouses plan to continue to recruit the Independent B-Ds. The wirehouses bring less freedom, layers of additional management, less access, and a lower payout. All this needs to be compensated for in the form of a nice “up front” check, and their superior support systems, and protection from regulation.  Is that enough? It is rare to see an independent advisor move to the wirehouse world, according to many recruiters. 

What can the wirehouse do? 

The “Big 4” need positive press, and a lot of it, if they plan on luring brokers from the independent channels.

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Morgan Stanley Smith Barney’s financial advisor headcount shrunk to 17,638 as of June 30.  The MSSB advisor headcount was 17,800 at the end of March. 

Despite the headcount loss, the average advisor productivity increased.  The average advisor production was $ 785,000 in the second quarter which increased 2 % over the first quarter. 

In comparison, Merrill Lynch’s 16,241 advisors average production was $ 894,000.

Morgan Stanley CFO Ruth Porat recently said the advisor headcount could fall below 17,500 as the brokerage focuses on removing lower performers.  Such a move, says Porat,” is good for clients and that’s good for our business,” according to a Reuters article.

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Merrill Lynch is fine-tuning a new enhanced pay grid that motivates financial advisors to serve high-net-worth clients, work in teams, and hit other goals.  The new enhanced pay grid would become effective next year. 

“Under the enhanced grid proposal, advisors would become eligible for extra pay if they hit four out of five measurable targets.  One is to have a book with at least 80 % of the clients qualifying as “affluent,” which Merrill defines as households with assets of $ 250,000 or greater.  Another goal is having no more than 150 households in the book of business,” according to Kathleen Laverty of FundFire.

Other targets in the plan include having 35% of client assets in fee based accounts, and to maintain a  client retention rate of at least 98 %, and tapping into a certain level of other products and services which may include, retirement planning,  and loans.  Advisors will be recognized for having professional designations such as CFP, Certified Financial Planner.

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Bank of America may need to consider selling Merrill Lynch.

According to an article by John Carney at cnbc.com, “The bank recently disclosed that expenses related to soured home loans could total $20.4 billion in the second quarter.  The bank has racked up legal and settlement costs to resolve demands that it buy back soured mortgages sold into securitizations, many of which were originally made by Countrywide Financial, which the bank acquired in 2008.”

Bank of America is considering selling off some assets, including its brokerage Merrill Lynch.  The bank is also considering spinning Merrill off as a separate company.  No specific deal is on the table, yet insiders think that Bank of America will have difficulty finding a buyer to purchase Merrill Lynch at an acceptable price. 

Bank of America’s dividend is at the financial crisis level of one cent per share.  Bank of America’s stock is down 27 percent for the year.  At this time, regulators will not allow Bank of America to boost its dividend until its capital position improves.

Something needs to be done to repair Bank of America’s shares.  Could selling Merrill Lynch work?

Read full article here

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According to an article in Investment News, a four man team of financial advisers from UBS Financial Services has joined the Palm Beach Complex of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.  This team manages $ 277 million in assets with a trailing 12 production of $ 2.5 million and will report to Merrill Lynch managing director James Chahine.

“The move registers as one of the largest moves of the last 60 days according to the Investment News Advisers on the move database.”

 Recruiting Financial Advisers within the wirehouses has been slow this year.  The main reason is that a large percentage of advisers are still under their retention packages signed two to three years ago. 

As the retention packages are worked off, recruiters expect to see more advisers explore their options after summer.

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