Merrill Lynch unveiled fresh details Monday around its modernized adviser development program, or ADP as the wirehouse is calling it, after a year of teasing that it is overhauling training practices for new financial advisers.
The new program, which is lead by Managing Director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Lydia DiClemente, not only cuts out the practice of cold-calling, but is designed to be a full-fledged talent management strategy that will integrate career paths and training for multiple roles within the company, said Andy Sieg, president of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.
There are three main goals of ADP, Sieg said during a press conference Monday. First, to develop a next generation of advisers capable of serving clients throughout their entire financial lives. Second, to enable the development of new advisers at scale by taking advantage of talent that’s already in house across Bank of America.
“And third, to modernize our business by creating a more efficient and effective path to success, supported by smarter business development approaches, and taking greater advantage of technology to meet clients and prospects where they are,” Sieg said.
Some specifics of the program include a newly created “Merrill adviser trainee role,” he said, which, like Merrill’s current program, will include a salary plus incentives. These advisers will be located in-office and report to their local market executives.
“We will open these roles to colleagues from across the company, including the consumer bank, global banking and markets, and of course, roles currently in Merrill such as our client associates, along with externally sourced talent,” Sieg said.
The training content will continue to be developed and delivered by the Academy, which is Bank of America’s training platform with a new emphasis placed on coaching and oversight with the extensive provision of leads and referrals, Sieg said.
“It’s critical to know that leads given to those in the program will have no impact on referrals that we will continue to provide to our existing financial adviser base,” Sieg said. “We expect this approach will benefit all of our trainees and open up the opportunity for a successful career in wealth management to a broader range of professionals.”
The new ADP is also expected to enhance Merrill Lynch Wealth Management’s diversity figures. The current class of 2,000 adviser trainees is the most diverse in the firm’s history, Sieg said, with 30% female and more than one third people of color.
Merrill is also anticipating the firm can graduate 1,000 new advisers per year, shrink down training time to 18 months instead of 36 months, and secure an 80% graduation rate, Sieg said.
ADP creates even closer ties between Bank of America’s consumer business of financial professionals and Merrill Lynch, said Aron Levine, president of Preferred and Consumer Banking and Investments at Bank of America.
“A financial solution adviser that works in our centers is really focused on leveraging our Merrill Lynch Guided Investing platform, working with clients to review their life goals, retirement education, buying a home, and really helping clients across the whole range of solutions: banking, lending, and investments,” Levine said.
“What we’ll do is couple that with our Academy in order to take the skills and enhance them and train to prepare our advisers to work with clients in a much broader set of offerings and capabilities that you find with one of the full service Merrill Lynch advisers,” he said.
ADP ultimately creates a career path for associates who are looking to spend their careers as an adviser with Merrill Lynch, or potentially with a private bank, Levine said.
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