Merrill Lynch Wealth Management has increased the number of women and ethnically diverse advisers and trainees compared to five years ago, seeking to more accurately reflect the nation’s changing population and appeal to potential clients, the firm said.
“Our growth strategy includes being in touch with diverse markets that are growing,” said Andy Sieg, president of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. “We’ve put the programs and processes in place and we’re seeing success adding diverse talent.”
Merrill Lynch has boosted its female adviser count to 3,650 of its 17,500 advisers, or 21%, and advisers who are ethnically diverse to 3,960, or 23%, the firm said. In 2015, those levels were at 18% and 15.5%, respectively. The New York-based unit of Bank of America has about 4.5% African American advisers and 9% Hispanic or Latino advisers, it said.
The nation’s wirehouses have been reluctant to release specific statistics about the diversity of their adviser forces, which have a long history of being nearly all white and male. According to a lawsuit filed by a former head of global diversity at Morgan Stanley, less than 1% of that firm’s 16,000 advisers are black.
Merrill’s 17,500 total advisers include its salaried Financial Solutions Advisors who work under the Merrill Edge brand and the firm’s adviser trainees. The thundering herd said its approximately 3,000 trainees are the most diverse group, including about 30% women and more than one-third people of color.
Of Sieg’s 10-person leadership team, four are women and one is African American — Craig Young, who was promoted to national business development executive in February.
“The commercial imperative of the changing customer is driving the change in the profile of advisers so that those potential clients see themselves in our adviser force.”
Among the more important steps Sieg said he has taken since becoming head of wealth management in 2017 was to build diversity into the goals of the leadership team. Today individuals’ performance scores include a diversity element along with other parameters such as new household acquisition or new client assets.
He’s also sought to create an inclusive atmosphere through unconscious bias training and support groups focused on African American, Hispanic, female and LGBTQ advisers.
Why is Merrill Lynch releasing diversity data now after years of reluctance?
“More transparency around diversity data will be healthy for the wealth management industry, and be beneficial with regards to recruitment,” Sieg said.
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