Yesterday, The New York Post reported that Merrill Lynch advisors are annoyed by Bank of America’s efforts to get them to offer their clients BoA checking accounts, mortgages and other retail-banking products. Today, the Wall Street Journal reports that Ken Lewis says everything is fine, that the integration of Merrill into BoA is “ahead of schedule.”
Here is a comment from today’s WSJ.com story (subscription required), “I am confident history will show that our actions ... in building Bank of America positioned our company for future success,” Mr. Lewis told analysts at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference in New York. “As I look ahead, I see no reason that Bank of America will not be among the handful of the most important and most successful financial-services companies in the world.”
The story goes on: “Mr. Lewis said Tuesday the Merrill Lynch merger is ahead of schedule and has produced $2.2 billion in cost savings through Sept. 30, or more than original forecasts. He said Bank of America expects to achieve 45 percent of the total cost savings by the end of this year, compared with the company's early projection of 25 percent.”
FAs we spoke to our less sanguine about the marriage. “Will it [the Merrill acquisition] work?” asked one $500-million-plus producer in the East. “I don’t know. They are two very different cultures with different clientele. Banks and brokers just don’t get along very well. It’s nothing personal; it’s just business. They do a good job at what they do, but they don’t have a clue about our side of the business.”
In other news, Bob McCann, the former Merrill man, is busy assembling a new team at his new firm, UBS. The former Merrill Global Wealth Management chief is populating the ranks of UBS’s Wealth Management Americas unit with former Merrill colleagues, reports the WSJ.
Sallie Krawcheck, in a glowing story in New York magazine, “The Woman Who Made It on Wall Street,” is described as the one woman who has been successful at scaling to the male-dominated mountain that is Wall Street. (Krawcheck is now in charge of the 16,000-strong Thundering Herd of Merrill.) Why? The story says Krawcheck, aka Mrs. Clean, offered this advice at a recent conference: “Make friends, not enemies, create a pleasant work environment, be persistent, work hard and accept that change is the only constant.” Oh, and she has a reputation for being honest. As an equity analyst, she was known to quip: How do you know if management is lying? Their lips are moving.
Of course, rank-and-file financial advisors don’t necessarily care who occupies senior management posts. Says one advisor we know, “We just want to stay out of the headlines and run our businesses. So, when senior management comes in, it’s ‘blah, blah, blah, blah,’ and on to something else. The only time we care is if they start screwing around with our commissions and payout grids.”