Merrill Fills Management Gap in Kentucky, Another One Opens in Arizona
Merrill Lynch Wealth Management has plugged one gap in field management but created another one.
It reached into Wells Fargo Advisors last Wednesday to hire John Gardner, a longtime complex manager in Louisville, Ken. as its “market executive” for branches in that city and in Lexington, along with satellite offices in Huntington, W. Va., Marietta, Oh. and Evansville, Ind., a Merrill spokeswoman confirmed.
Gardner replaces Gary Scott Cox, who left in July after 21 years to join NYLIFE Securities in Louisville, according to his LinkedIn profile and BrokerCheck record.
Gardner, who had managed branches at Wells for 23 years, and Cox did not return calls for comment. He recruited half of the revenue at the five-office “Bluegrass” complex, and opened three offices since he took the role in 2005, according to his former Wells biography.
While his hire fills a management hole that has widened at Merrill and other large firms amid significant changes in the roles of “field” management as firms retreat from recruiting, the Bank of America-owned Merrill has a new market gap.
Eileen Elliott, whose 35-year brokerage career has been spent wholly with Merrill, unexpectedly stepped down as manager of its Scottsdale/Sun City, Az. market last week, according to several sources, some of whom said she remains on the payroll while searching for another position.
Elliott, who has held the Scottsdale reins since 2014, did not return a request for comment, and the Merrill spokesperson declined to comment on her position or who is running the southwestern market. Elliott began her career as a client associate in New York in 1984, subsequently moving to various sales, marketing and management positions across the U.S., according to her LinkedIn profile.
Merrill Lynch’s two-year decision to freeze recruiting of experienced brokers has removed one of the key performance metrics for branch and complex managers, and has led to accelerated departures, voluntary and otherwise.
Gardner is at least the third veteran field leader that Merril has recruited from competitors in the past three months. Former UBS manager James M. Cadet joined in October to oversee three offices in Red Bank, New Jersey. Kenneth Correa, another UBS manager with a high profile at that firm, left for Merrill in July to oversee some offices in Manhattan and New Jersey.
Merrill has dealt with those and other departures by calling on utility infielders to move to new regions, with the musical-chair game particularly active in California and Texas.
A spokeswoman for Wells Fargo declined to comment on Gardner, or on whether a replacement has been named to oversee the 75 brokers in the Kentucky complex that his biography said he managed.
Wells has upped recruiting deals for managers and advisers to help replenish and manage a sales force that has lost more than 1,000 brokers since disclosure of its sister bank’s fake-account scandals three years ago.
Gardner started his career as a financial advisor at Dean Witter in Schaumberg, Illinois in 1987, according to BrokerCheck.