The Envelope Please: Merrill Names ‘Growth Award’ Winners
(Corrects location of PBIG advisor Peter Rohr in 10th paragraph.)
Merrill Lynch Wealth Management has tallied the winners of its eight-month special program to get brokers to rev up their efforts to bring in new accounts and assets. The results, like the children of Lake Wobegon, were above average.
The 400 brokers who qualified for Merrill’s unique Excellence in Growth (EIG) program signed up an average of 9.5 new households between August 2017 and the end of last month, according to several brokers who received the results on Monday. That’s well above the less-than-one net new account that Merrill brokers were averaging in 2016 and 2017.
The dismal growth rate of recent years, exacerbated by Merrill’s mid-2017 decision to end recruiting of experienced brokers who could bring new clients with them, provoked Merrill Wealth head Andy Sieg to unroll a series of what the company calls “responsible growth” programs, including the EIG.
He larded the firm’s 2018 broker compensation plan with bonuses for growing assets and accounts—and with payout cuts for failing to meet growth goals. And in the early months of the EIG program, he rallied senior brokers to coach and cheerlead colleagues, amid reports of resistance to the overall growth push.
The EIG program promised trips to either a summer or winter resort to the cream of the firm’s almost 15,000 advisors who brought in the highest blended number of “gained households” and net new assets, loans and deposits. (The firm calls the trips “growth symposiums,” in an effort to distinguish them from sales product contests, which are illegal, and has taken pains to say that the program was product-agnostic.)
Merrill officials would not assess the EIG results (or discuss whether the symposium locations have been picked) but people familiar with the program said it has proven its value in contributing to the Bank of America-owned broker-dealer’s growth goals. They made similar comments earlier this month when the bank reported that Merrill brokers in the first quarter produced the highest amount of money from customers since BofA bought the firm nine years ago.
The EIG competitors were split into seven categories, based on length-of-service at the firm. Brokers within Merrill Lynch’s traditional wealth management branches had to bring in accounts with at least $250,000 to qualify for the award while those in its Private Banking and Investment Group had household minimums of at least $10 million.
Many of the seminar qualifiers are familiar names within Merrill circles. Nine of the 10 winning names in the Merrill Lynch Wealth Management 20-year-or-higher length of service category were designated as top state or national brokers in either Barron’s or Financial Times 400 rankings in 2016, 2017 and/or 2018. In some cases, brokers who were partners on teams were winners, including Atlanta’s James E. Wallace and Deborah Howard, who specialize in servicing plan sponsor accounts.
Below, in ranked order, are the 31 PBIG growth award “qualifiers,” as Merrill calls the winners, and the 10 Merrill Wealth Management qualifiers with at least 20 years of experience, as reviewed by AdvisorHub:
PBIG, with 15 or more years of service: Arif Ahmed, Menlo Park, CA; Thomas Jackson, Los Angeles; John Erdmann III, Greenwich, CT; Peter Rohr, Philadelphia/Wayne, PA; Ashu Chopra, San Francisco; James Hartman, Annapolis, MD; Louis Chiavacci, Miami/Biscayne; Ben Sax and Eric Bodner, New York City; Gregory Cash and R. Mitchell Wickham, Charlotte; Thomas Keegan, New York City; John Tracy, Los Angeles; Gwendolyn Campbell, San Francisco; Michael Walsh, Los Angeles; John Paffendorf, Los Angeles; Noel Weil, New York City; David Amar, Los Angeles; Shirley Quackenbush, Newport Beach; Michael Breen, San Francisco.
PBIG, with less than 15 years of service: Michelle Mayer, Naples, FL; Dane Runia, Provo, UT; Lawrence J. Nagel, Louisville; Jacob Dunn, New York City; Michael Brodnik, Washington, DC; Hadi Fakhoury, New York City; David Z. Freeman, Los Angeles; Derick Grembi, Troy, MI; Kim Stein, Dallas; Adam Katz, New York City; Kevin Bruegge, Cincinnati.
Merrill Lynch Wealth, with 20 or more years of service: James E. Wallace and Deborah Howard, Atlanta; Bruce Gsell, Short Hills, NJ; Kent Pearce, Towson, MD; Peter Eckerline, Wayzata, MN; Trevor Nelson, Washington, DC; Anthony Luppino, New York City; Elliott Kugel, Bridgewater, NJ; Melissa Spickler, Bloomfield Hills, MI; Gregory Hayes, Princeton, NJ.