Merrill Reorganizes Training Program, Names Community Markets Head
Merrill Lynch is introducing a revamped training program that aims to improve productivity and retention of fledgling brokers in the 43-month program through upgraded standards, new leaders and closer integration with parent company Bank of America.
The new Wealth Management Development program will be run by Tim Gillespie, a former complex manager who since late 2017 has been a training program manager, Merrill Wealth Management President Andy Sieg wrote in an email to the firm’s 14,800 advisors on Wednesday.
“Tim will head this team with responsibilities for the onboarding, licensing and early-stage development of new financial advisors as they prepare for production,” Sieg wrote.
To improve graduation rates in the training program, Sieg delegated Kirstin Hill, Merrill’s “strategic performance executive” to oversee productivity of trainees through a “Financial Advisor Development Program” subset.
“Kirstin will identify a leader for this effort who can achieve new levels of performance from FADPs,” Sieg wrote. “This will be a consistent national program, with rigorous activity and performance management that’s supported by new market level leaders.”
Sieg told reporters last month that the firm’s advisor count has fallen in part because of increased attrition in Merrill’s FADP training—formerly known as Practice Management Development—after performance expectations were raised.
In his administrative role, Gillespie will create an “academy for wealth management” that will align with a similar program for Bank of America’s consumer and small-business sectors, Sieg wrote. Gillespie will report to John Jordan, who heads training for those units and who also has been on Merrill’s “leadership team,” the email said.
Jeff Markham, one of six Merrill Wealth division heads overseeing brokers in nine western states, will give up his ancillary responsibilities for overseeing the training program. Earlier this week, Merrill said that Markham has assumed new responsibility for running Merrill’s Texas-based Mountain South division, in addition to his West Division roles, replacing Vince Fertitta.
Shortly after he took the reins of Merrill Wealth two years ago, Sieg announced plans to hire more early-career brokers and to squeeze more productivity from brokers in about 100 small-market branches by creating a “community markets” strategy with more management support. Both efforts came as Merrill, along with rivals Morgan Stanley and UBS, dramatically cut their budgets for recruiting experienced advisers.
In Wednesday’s memo, Sieg gave an update on the strategy for the community branches, which are not near Bank of America branches and which have been without a leader since Benjamin Prince left Merrill in December.
Eric Schimpf, Merrill Wealth’s executive in charge of its Atlanta-based Southeast division, has assumed responsibility for community markets, while continuing to oversee the 18-market Southeast division. Schimpf will appoint a leader to oversee the community strategy, Sieg wrote, without providing a timeframe.
A Merrill spokesman confirmed the contents of the memo.