A major brokerage firm is trying to reinvigorate its aging sales force by recruiting young advisors into one of the biggest training programs on Wall Street.
Merrill Lynch , the fabled brokerage house that the 2008 financial crisis reduced to a division of Bank of America, is racing against time: industry figures from research firm Cerulli Associates indicate that around half of financial advisors are over 55 and 100,000 brokers are set to retire within ten years, according to Reuters.
The brokerage industry’s reputation for ambitious sales goals and long hours has also left it struggling to attract fresh talent to replace its exiting veterans.
“[Millennials] have a lot of leverage,” said Cheri Lyttle, Merrill Lynch's head of adviser and strategy development, at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association’s (SIFMA) Private Client Conference in Arizona. “They're not going to sign up to these lofty sales goals if they don't want.”
Referring to its financial advisors as the “thundering herd,” Merrill Lynch hires around 1,500 trainees per year, and currently has 3,500 trainees enrolled in its three-year practice management program. Media reports say that the program is tough, with around half of trainees dropping out. Merrill Lynch doesn’t publicize its attrition numbers, although it did say in January that it had hit a record low.
The firm said that it is casting a wide net by looking for recruits from “all walks of life,” according to Merrill Lynch head Andy Sieg. The new prospects would include teachers, entrepreneurs, and former athletes, to name a few. Sieg believes that the training programs in the firm’s different divisions will improve their success rate because of the increased options.
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