Merrill’s Sieg Centralizes, Cutting Sales Regions to Six from Ten
(Adds details on DeNardo Hans in fourth paragraph and on new training head Hong Ogle in 12th paragraph.)
Less than three months after taking the reins of Merrill Lynch’s army of 14,600 brokers, Andy Sieg has shifted their management ranks.
In a memo sent to Merrill Wealth employees on Wednesday, Sieg said he is restructuring the business’s regional structure from 10 to six divisions to deal with brokers’ most common concern—their lack of time to develop business.
“[Y]our most common concern is capacity – or, more accurately, the loss of it. How can we free up time and energy better spent on client acquisition or in the quality service of clients,” Sieg wrote. “The [smaller group of] division executives will serve, in effect, as an extension of my role as head of the business and we’ll work together to empower our client-facing teams. Our shared objective is to make the organization feel like a smaller, more tightly integrated firm.”
As part of the change, two divisional heads are leaving the firm and four others will be reassigned. Sieg elevated two so-called market executives — Lindsay DeNardo Hans and Vince Fertitta—to run the Mid-Atlantic and Texas Mountain South regions, respectively. Unlike most of the Merrill veterans shifting under the new structure, DeNardo Hans did not move to Merrill until September 2014 to manage Philadelphia-area branches. She had previously worked for almost 14 years at UBS Financial Markets in Los Angeles, according to her BrokerCheck profile.
James Dickson, head of the now-shuttered Greater Midwest division who was put on leave of absence last month, is leaving “to pursue other opportunities,” according to the memo. Linda Houston, a 32-year Merrill veteran who most recently ran its now-closed New England division, is retiring, it said.
Jeff Tucker, promoted last year by Sieg’s predecessor John Thiel to run the New York Metro region, will “transition to a new assignment in coming weeks,” the memo said, while former Pacific Northwest regional head Tom Fickinger is considering new opportunities within the company. New York Metro is now part of Bill Lorenz’ Northeast dominion while PacNorthwest melds into Jeff Markham’s West region.
Sieg’s revamping of the management ranks follows the resignation earlier this month of Riley Etheridge, a top lieutenant to Thiel, and of the retirement of Phil Sieg, Andy’s popular brother who was heading Merrill’s private banking and investment group (PBIG) of brokers serving very wealthy clients.
Don Plaus, who was running the Southeast division, was appointed to head PBIG, and is being replaced by former South Atlantic division head Eric Schimpf.
Ben Prince, who ran Merrill’s Southwest division, has taken a new position heading “Community Markets,” which Sieg described as “a set of nearly 150 smaller offices that represent in aggregate a significant market opportunity.”
In a sign that Merrill may continue to change its strategy regarding service to less affluent investors who it has been shifting to Bank of America-housed brokers, Sieg wrote: “We want to better understand the markets these offices serve and ensure they are appropriately staffed and supported. We expect to see the results of the strategy efforts this summer.”
Prince’s former Southwest division will be divided between West division head Jeff Markham and Fertitta, head of the new Texas Mountain South region.
In another shift, Sieg moved Hong Ogle to run training and other broker “development” programs as head of adviser development. She had been in charge of Merrill and Bank of America’s Houston bank and brokerage offices.
Sieg also wrote that Mike Adornetto, “a long-time leader in wealth management operations areas, will be returning as Chief Operating Officer of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. “ He most recently was working with Bank of America’s consumer bank and global banking and markets operations, continuing the bank’s melding of the brokerage unit into its banking sphere as it cross-markets loans with investment products.
The six divisions under the new structure, and their leaders are:
- Northeast, Bill Lorenz
- Mid-Atlantic, Lindsay DeNardo Hans
- Southeast, Eric Schimpf
- Midwest, Paul Lambert
- Texas Mountain South, Vince Fertitta
- West, Jeff Markham