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Merrill Lynch Loses 124 FAs in 1Q But Confident About Future Growth

By Alex Padalka April 17, 2018

Merrill Lynch’s advisor ranks shrank less than 1% in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the previous quarter but the wirehouse is confident the numbers will grow thanks to its training programs and a new low in the rate of attrition among its “competitive” advisors, Bank of America, the wirehouse’s parent company, says in its latest earnings report.

The wirehouse had 14,829 advisors at the end of the first quarter, compared to 14,953 in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to the report. Bank of America attributes this to “seasonally fewer hires” in its advisor training program and points out it had its 17th consecutive quarter of growth in the ranks of experienced advisors. That in turn was due to a record number of advisors graduating from Merrill Lynch’s training program, as well as a record low in experienced advisor attrition since the wirehouse joined Bank of America, according to the report. Merrill Lynch has added 272 more advisors year over year, representing a 2% rise in its ranks, Bank of America says.

Moreover, productivity among experienced advisors at Merrill Lynch is now $1.36 million, a 3.6% increase over the fourth quarter of 2017 and a 5.7% increase year over year, according to the report. Overall, advisor productivity is $1.04 million, a 4.5% increase over the previous quarter as well as the year prior, Bank of America says.

“Merrill Lynch advisors are reacting positively to our growth initiatives, including the 2018 compensation program which incentivizes household and other types of responsible organic growth,” Bank of America CFO Paul Donofrio says in a statement.

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Merrill Lynch also had record revenue of $4 billion, a 5.6% rise year over year and a 4.1% increase from the previous quarter, according to the report. Client balances have slipped 1% to $2.3 trillion from the previous quarter, which Bank of America attributes to falling market levels during the quarter. Client balances were still 5% higher than the year prior, according to the report.