Exciting changes are in the pipeline at Merrill Wealth Management.
Executives were appointed to replace Merrill’s president Andy Siegwho left Merrill for Citigroup
“We have a tremendous opportunity to continue to grow alongside our existing clients and continue to attract new ones,” said Schimpf, who previously served as CEO and co-chair of the Enterprise Consultant Development Program. “There is work to be done on both fronts.”
“We have all the pieces in place, we just need to do a better job of executing,” Hans added.
Merrill’s changes come against the backdrop of an industry grappling with a growing demand for financial advice. These demands are expected to only increase as the amount of wealth among high-income American households continues to increase. “The value of human advice is very important to our clients, and the business is becoming more and more complex,” said Hans.
After spending the past 100 days interviewing 25,000 Merrill employees, Schimpf and Hans said they plan to tap into the depth and scale of Merrill’s operations along with its extensive network of experienced wealth managers. The company can also build on Merrill’s long tradition of internal training and employee development to grow its network.
“Our core philosophy is that Merrill is the best place to be a customer and we want to maintain that into the future,” said Hans, who previously oversaw Merrill’s international and institutional wealth management sectors. “We have the most talented consultants and have a complete platform to serve clients across the entire chain.”
Hans said counselors told her Meryl needed to “be smarter, faster, and better at skipping some of the things that make it difficult” to do their job.
Schimpf added, “I don’t think there’s anything new here. Lindsey and I have talked a lot about the role we play in culture and the fact that everyone wants to get better. How can we help? By developing a strong culture of peer-to-peer learning.”
Training, development and creating stronger networks of peers are key to innovation at Merrill and keeping the company at the forefront of the wealth management industry, Schimpf and Hans said.
Merrill is known for its innovations. For decades, Merrill has been a leader in wealth management, being the first company to offer cash management accounts in the 1970s. But Merrill has struggled to regain its past glory amid a changing wealth management landscape and increased competition.
In 2008, Bank of America
Arguably, Merrill still has one of the best franchises in the wealth management industry, a franchise that is further enhanced by its close relationship with Bank of America. BA encourages Merrill customers to pool their assets with BA by becoming bank customers. Meryl would benefit, too. The BA spends $11 billion annually on technology with $3.5 billion of that figure going to projects that drive growth and innovation, including AI-powered tools.
Hans said Merrill plans to focus on continuing to build its ranks of talented advisors — both at the entry and senior levels. Experienced advisors will be provided with new technical tools and training. This effort will allow consultants to better serve clients.
The consultants told Hans and Schimpf that they needed help managing the teams and growing their business. Schimpf said teams are getting bigger and the demands associated with managing those teams are increasing. In addition, clients request additional services from financial advisors.
So far, the chancellors have enthusiastically welcomed the appointment of Hans and Schimpf. Senior advisors interviewed by SHOOK Research say they are excited about the CEOs’ depth of experience and the transparency and commitment stated.
“The world has become a lot more complicated for advisors,” Hans said. “Most advisors didn’t get into this business to be CEOs. They got into it because they wanted to manage money, they wanted to attract new clients and because they wanted to invest and offer financial planning.”
However, Hans and Schimpf said the reality is that many consultants are now running complex businesses. “What we’re hearing is advisors need capabilities, they want more time to grow their business and deepen their relationships with clients,” said Schimpf, who began his career as a financial advisor at Merrill in 1994.
Schimpf plans to work to develop a local leadership culture that will train and develop consultants, implement new technology and improve the ability of Merrill teams to manage growth and serve customers.
“Everyone wants to get better. Lindsey and I will play a strong role in helping to develop that culture,” Schimpf said. “We think people want to do all their business in one place – investments and banking – and we want to be that place.”