Merrill Hires $2-Mln JPMorgan Bank Team in Texas
Breaking from its three-year freeze on recruiting, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management this week hired a four-person team in Texas from J.P. Morgan’s Chase Investment Securities.
Led by advisors Aaron Gutierrez and David Cepeda, the team produced around $2 million in annual revenue at a J.P. Morgan Chase bank branch in Fort Worth, a Merrill spokesperson confirmed. Joining the advisors in their move on Wednesday to Merrill’s West Fort Worth branch were client associates Michael Coody and Dana Lewis.
Merrill executives have said they continue to keep a tight rein on recruiting experienced advisers from direct competitors in line with the “responsible growth” directive of its Bank of America parent. The Merrill spokesperson said that the firm continues to “selectively” hire veteran brokers, but declined to comment on specific numbers
Headhunters said it is unclear whether the Texas hires represent an exception to Merrill’s restrictive policies, or whether the team’s bank branch background made them more affordable and adaptable.
“It’s very intriguing, and it raises the question whether Merrill is going to do the same type of cherry picking with its hiring that UBS and Morgan Stanley are doing,” said New York-based recruiter Mark Elzweig, referring to those firms’ recent focus on hiring traditional private bankers. “Or they may feel that a bank-branch advisor will fit in better with the Bank of America corporate culture than a more free-wheeling wirehouse advisor. The bank forms a plan and bank advisors execute.”
Gutierrez, who has been with J.P. Morgan for eight years of his 12-year brokerage career, was not available to comment on his practice or reasons for moving, said a person answering his phone at Merrill. Cepeda, whose 15-year career was split between Ameriprise and Chase, did not return a call for comment on the move.
Bank of America no longer breaks out how many of its financial advisors work at Merrill Wealth, reporting instead an aggregate number that includes private bank advisors and some 3,000 brokers at its low-touch Merrill Edge unit. Insiders say Merrill Wealth’s “thundering herd” has decreased to around 14,000 advisors from more than 15,000 a few years ago.
Merrill also has been blending its advisor sales training programs with those of Bank of America.
Merrill Wealth President Andy Sieg halted what he called “experienced advisor” hiring three years ago. In its place, he has focused on hiring those with less than ten years of experience and on bulking up Merrill’s presence in small markets without Bank of America branches.
Morgan Stanley had similarly cut its veteran advisor recruiting budget in 2017 but reversed course last year before the coronavirus crisis hit.
In an attempt to keep their advisor forces from heavy attrition during their recruiting pauses, Morgan Stanley and UBS have exited the Protocol for Broker Recruiting. Merrill remains in the pact, which allows brokers to take limited client information with them to jumpstart their practices when moving to other signatory firms.