Merrill Lynch’s adviser base grew by 2% over a year, the company disclosed Thursday in an earnings report.
The firm had 17,888 financial advisers among its ranks as of the end of June, up from 17,508 a year prior. The company has also resumed hiring trainee advisers, something it had suspended amid the pandemic, in April, according to a company executive who asked to not be named specifically.
“We are again interviewing new applicants for the training program and extending offers,” the executive said. “It feels good to be back moving forward with hiring.”
Since 2017, Merrill has been moving to bring on new advisers through its training program, rather than seeking to hire experienced advisers. In January, the firm indicated it would stay on that course.
During the trainee hiring suspension, existing trainees continued to graduate to become full advisers at the firm, according to the company.
Further, the 650 trainees the firm had diverted earlier this year to the wider Bank of America to help clients with Paycheck Protection Program loans and other assistance will soon be resuming their training at Merrill, in phases, the executive said.
“We are going to begin seeing trainees returning to the Merrill Lynch business and their day jobs over the coming weeks,” he said.
Shuffling those trainees to the bank helped clients and the parent company, though Merrill will also benefit from those workers’ experience, he said.
“It also has been a tremendous development opportunity,” he said. “Having 650 members of our team who know how to navigate the broader company is going to pay dividends over time.”
In 2017, the firm set new goals for diversity hiring, which has helped result in 54% of new hires over the past 18 months being people of color and women, he said. The company did not break down that percentage further.
Merrill added 6,000 net new household clients during the second quarter, along with 500 in Bank of America’s Private Bank, the firm stated. The number of new clients is down year-over-year, but the quarterly figure is nonetheless higher than that for the full years in 2015 through 2017, the executive said.
However, the firm is on track to substantially outpace the number of 401(k) clients and other benefit plans it added in 2019, he said. During the first six months of 2020, Merrill added 2,200 new workplace benefits plans, he said.
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