Starting at ML. Please Help!

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Scully007's picture
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Joined: 2007-06-20

I have an opportunity to work as a Merrill Lynch FA in a very affluent area.  I am not a registered rep yet.  I very much want this position but I am worried about the surviving the first two years.  I understand the effort that I'm going to have to put in to be successful.  I have read post on the number of contacts I have to make and the fact that I need to have $15mil under management within the first two years.  What are the specifics for the the first year?  How does a new guy attract customers when people ask questions like "How long have you been in the business?  How much do you manage?"  I know that you can't lie about things like that, so why would anyone want to work with a newbie even if I have Merrill behind me? Is it realistic to start at ML?  How good is the training program and how much of my time will be spent learning as opposed to growing my business? If not where is a better place to start?  I heard that you don't have to do as much prospecting at Wachovia.  Is this true and if so why not?  Please I need all the advise I can get.  I really would like specifics on the the numbers I have to put up in the first two years.  I would as like to know what is required at other major firms, no independents please.  If there are any ML FA's new to the business I would love to hear about your experience.

vbrainy's picture
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Joined: 2006-07-26

people are not posting because your question, well, it is lame.
If you have NO IDEA how you would raise $15 million, don't take the job.  You will just get fired after you bring in $3 million from your family and friends.  Then you have to face everyone after you took their money.
Sit down, take out a pencil, try to be realistic and tell us how much money you could actually bring in your first year, then we can give you an idea of which firm would be best for you.
And the most important question is WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE A FINANCIAL ADVISOR?
Do you have a burning, unquenchable, fire in your GUT to do this job?  To work LONG and HARD even when things aren't going your way.  What kind of experience do you have that shows you are a hard worker?
 

12345's picture
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Joined: 2006-12-04

You will quickly learn that no matter what firm you start with prospecting is A number 1. If you are scared to do it now, it won't get any easy when you get hired. Spend a few more months researching this career to determine if it is what you really want.

bluestar's picture
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Joined: 2004-12-14

My take is the job of selling stuff, especially abstract stuff like advice, takes not just skills but a certain personality.  That is the most important factor.  You have to find out whether you have that personality.
Are you very talkative? Do you like to meet people? Can you make friends quickly? Can you take rejections well? Can you think on the spot?  If you are introverted, even if you can endless referrals you'll probably be miserable.
That doesn't mean you can't develop those skills.  But you have to develop them before signing on to Merrill Lynch, or you will come under pressure real quick.
On the other hand, I think most Merrill managers do a good screening about their candidates.  If they offer you a desk, I think they see something in you.  Good luck.

AllREIT's picture
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Joined: 2006-12-16

Scully007 wrote:I have an opportunity to work as a Merrill Lynch FA in
a very affluent area.  I am not a registered rep yet.  I very
much want this position but I am worried about the surviving the first
two years.  I understand the effort that I'm going to have to put
in to be successful.  I have read post on the number of contacts I
have to make and the fact that I need to have $15mil under management
within the first two years.  What are the specifics for the the
first year?

The odds are strongly against you making it, however if you do and keep at it, it can be very profitable.

Quote:How does a new guy attract customers when people ask questions
like "How long have you been in the business?  How much do you
manage?"  I know that you can't lie about things like that, so why
would anyone want to work with a newbie even if I have Merrill behind
me?

Mostly because they trust you and don't know the risks of working with inexperienced people.

The big advantage of ML over other firms is the big toolset you have to
work with. For clients with between $1M to $100M ML can handle it.

You legitamately compete and win against pure mutual fund pushers.

Quote:Is it realistic to start at ML?  How good is the training
program and how much of my time will be spent learning as opposed to
growing my business? If not where is a better place to start?

Anywhere that is more committed to your long term survival. ML is sort
of like EDJ is having a throw it against the wall and see what sticks
mentality.

Quote:I heard that you don't have to do as much prospecting at
Wachovia.  Is this true and if so why not?  Please I need all
the advise I can get.

The odds are so strongly against sucess in this business. I can blindly tell any pool of 100 rookies, that in five years less than 10 of them will still be in the business.

BigRed's picture
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Joined: 2007-04-15

How do you have this opportunity to work at ML if you haven't given them a business plan yet? They will only give you an offer if you can prove you can do the work in a business plan.

If you are scared, you are inevitably going to fail. My advice is unless you are going into a group (which is by and large the only way a newbie can make it at ML).

Scully007's picture
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Joined: 2007-06-20

vbrainy wrote:
people are not posting because your question, well, it is lame.
If you have NO IDEA how you would raise $15 million, don't take the job.  You will just get fired after you bring in $3 million from your family and friends.  Then you have to face everyone after you took their money.
Sit down, take out a pencil, try to be realistic and tell us how much money you could actually bring in your first year, then we can give you an idea of which firm would be best for you.
And the most important question is WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE A FINANCIAL ADVISER?
Do you have a burning, unquenchable, fire in your GUT to do this job?  To work LONG and HARD even when things aren't going your way.  What kind of experience do you have that shows you are a hard worker?
Wow, thanks. Very helpful.  Take a pencil and say how much could I really bring in.  What good is that?  I could sit here and speculate for a year and would never be able to come up with realistic figure.  The only way I could find out is if I sit and make 400 phone calls a day, keep detailed records, do my call backs and do a good job of screening for high net worth individuals.  I have been working for an investment research firm for 9 months and have opened over 100 accounts.  I can sell.  I just wanted some answers to specific questions that I asked, preferably from someone who was in their first two years at Merrill or just finished their first two years.  What good is it to say that my post is lame.  Who even says the word lame anymore?  I love people on these forums that have to belittle people, very mature.  I don't want to sound like I don't have confidence in myself because I do.  If you met me you would see that.  I am also intelligent and I know that if I was looking for an FA I would ask these questions and I would not work with someone who is in experienced.  Just being realistic.  Who do you work for? I have thought long and hard about being an FA and it's for me.  That paragraph was so cliché.  Also, have you ever heard the cliché that that money and blood don't mix?  I would not go to family members to build my book.  I want to earn for myself and not have things handed to me from relatives.  I know you have to do what you have to do to survive but I'm not even getting 3 mill out of my family anyway, so not really worth to me.  By the way, this was my first post ever.  Maybe you should look at the posts from Bluestar and ALLREIT, they were helpful unlike what you said.

malcom's picture
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Joined: 2007-05-22

hilarious.
 

troll's picture
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Joined: 2004-11-29

Scully007 wrote:I have an opportunity to work as a Merrill Lynch FA in a very affluent area.  I am not a registered rep yet.  I very much want this position but I am worried about the surviving the first two years.  I understand the effort that I'm going to have to put in to be successful.  I have read post on the number of contacts I have to make and the fact that I need to have $15mil under management within the first two years.  What are the specifics for the the first year?  How does a new guy attract customers when people ask questions like "How long have you been in the business?  How much do you manage?"  I know that you can't lie about things like that, so why would anyone want to work with a newbie even if I have Merrill behind me? Is it realistic to start at ML?  How good is the training program and how much of my time will be spent learning as opposed to growing my business? If not where is a better place to start?  I heard that you don't have to do as much prospecting at Wachovia.  Is this true and if so why not?  Please I need all the advise I can get.  I really would like specifics on the the numbers I have to put up in the first two years.  I would as like to know what is required at other major firms, no independents please.  If there are any ML FA's new to the business I would love to hear about your experience.
Don't sweat it. If these bankchildren are bringing in 2 million/month, you can easily bring in 3 million.

WealthManager's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-16

Scully007,<?:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
 
             When you say that you “have an opportunity to work as a Merrill Lynch FA in a very affluent area” does that mean that you have been given an offer?  If so, congratulations!
 
             You are right to worry about surviving the first two years but I regret to inform you that things are much worse than bringing in $15mm in 2-years.  I’m not trying to say that you won’t succeed should you decide to take advantage of this opportunity; I only want to open your eyes a bit more.
 
             Since you mentioned $15mm in 2-years rather that $15mm in 18-months, it is pretty safe for me to assume that you are young, inexperienced in financial services and being offered a salary of less than $40k/year.  If this job was not difficult enough, the first two points are obstacles that will require you to work even harder than some of your competition.  Outside of people not trusting their finances to a newbie, you also have to contend with the issue that your network is most likely skewed to young peers and that these people may not be a good source of assets to manage.
 
             Another thing that potential POAers need to know is that the $15mm hurdle is not nearly enough for most to survive once their salary disappears.  In order to receive a decent graduation bonus, you will need to hit this hurdle in 18-months if not in 12-months.  A large graduation bonus is a key to your survival once you get off of salary.  Even with $15mm of AUM, your piece of the production can be as little as $25k/year.  I’ve heard of many people failing once graduating POA simply because they were not able to pay their bills.  This is where things may be in your favor if my previous assumption is correct.  If your salary is less than $40k then a drop down to as low as $25k may not be that big of a problem for you.  Additionally, should there be months where your commission exceeds your salary then you will receive the higher commission.
 
             Most fail but don’t let that stop you.  To quote Charles Merrill, “I have no fear of failure, provided I use my heart and head, hands and feet – and work like hell.”
 
I hope that this helps and I will you luck with your decision.
--WM

blarmston's picture
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Joined: 2005-02-26

$15MM will allow you to hit your goals. You need between $20-25MM to stay in the game once you graduate and your salary goes buh-bye...

Analyst's picture
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Joined: 2007-06-12

This isn't directed at the original poster specifically, but $15 million seems like a lot for a guy with little experience, in general. 
How do the ML guys gather that much?  I know they work like hell, and a lot don't make it, but do they do seminars, cold-call, etc., etc.  What's the ML new advisor formula?

BullBroker's picture
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Joined: 2006-12-26

WealthManager wrote:
Scully007,<?:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

             When you say that you “have an opportunity to work as a Merrill Lynch FA in a very affluent area” does that mean that you have been given an offer?  If so, congratulations!

             You are right to worry about surviving the first two years but I regret to inform you that things are much worse than bringing in $15mm in 2-years.  I’m not trying to say that you won’t succeed should you decide to take advantage of this opportunity; I only want to open your eyes a bit more.

             Since you mentioned $15mm in 2-years rather that $15mm in 18-months, it is pretty safe for me to assume that you are young, inexperienced in financial services and being offered a salary of less than $40k/year.  If this job was not difficult enough, the first two points are obstacles that will require you to work even harder than some of your competition.  Outside of people not trusting their finances to a newbie, you also have to contend with the issue that your network is most likely skewed to young peers and that these people may not be a good source of assets to manage.

             Another thing that potential POAers need to know is that the $15mm hurdle is not nearly enough for most to survive once their salary disappears.  In order to receive a decent graduation bonus, you will need to hit this hurdle in 18-months if not in 12-months.  A large graduation bonus is a key to your survival once you get off of salary.  Even with $15mm of AUM, your piece of the production can be as little as $25k/year.  I’ve heard of many people failing once graduating POA simply because they were not able to pay their bills.  This is where things may be in your favor if my previous assumption is correct.  If your salary is less than $40k then a drop down to as low as $25k may not be that big of a problem for you.  Additionally, should there be months where your commission exceeds your salary then you will receive the higher commission.

             Most fail but don’t let that stop you.  To quote Charles Merrill, “I have no fear of failure, provided I use my heart and head, hands and feet – and work like hell.”

I hope that this helps and I will you luck with your decision.
--WM

If you are going to be giving advice on this board try to at very least make it a little more accurate.  It is not only $15million, $10million must be in annuitized assets.  "IF" you did get the $10 million and graduated with the minimum bonus of $10000 cash $25000 stock, your net worth just jumped $35000.  Then (inless ALL of your clients left) the minimum you could make annually is $50,000.  $10million annuitized= (@minimum) 1% annual fee=$100,000 if you have only been there 2 years you are still on 50% grid, 50% of $100,000 = $50,000 annual salary.  And $50,000/year is better than 90% of the worlds population make in a year. 

AllREIT's picture
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Joined: 2006-12-16

Analyst wrote:This isn't directed at the original poster
specifically, but $15 million seems like a lot for a guy with little
experience, in general. 
How do the ML guys gather that much?  I know they work like
hell, and a lot don't make it, but do they do seminars, cold-call,
etc., etc.  What's the ML new advisor formula?

ML takes 100 POA's, they all work hard. 8 graduate, and the spoils of the failures are divided up in the offices.

That's why MER is a great company to own, but not to work for.

rightway's picture
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Joined: 2004-12-02

AllREIT wrote:
Analyst wrote:This isn't directed at the original poster
specifically, but $15 million seems like a lot for a guy with little
experience, in general. 
How do the ML guys gather that much?  I know they work like
hell, and a lot don't make it, but do they do seminars, cold-call,
etc., etc.  What's the ML new advisor formula?

ML takes 100 POA's, they all work hard. 8 graduate, and the spoils of the failures are divided up in the offices.

That's why MER is a great company to own, but not to work for.

Really?  I like working for Merrill Lynch.  Since joining I
have quadrupled my liquid net worth and by production.  They pay
for lots of stuff and my effective payout is north of 50%.  I get
sent all around the country to get A-1 training and when I have a
wealthy prospect the firm pays for me to stick them on an airplane and
fly them and their spouse out to New York for a proposal unlike
anything they have ever seen. 

I run our POA program, and over the last 7 years we have graduated 80%
(the firm average is around 60% I think), and a couple are nearly
million dollar producers now.  When someone gets let go their book
is usually not attractive enought for any viable rep to want it. 
I cannot speak for the rest of the country, but all of the coach
meeting I go to in Princeton seem to indicate the same tone. 

Merrill Lynch is a great company to work for FOR THE RIGHT
PERSON!  Just like all of the other great firms out there. 
We should stop making these blanket statements.

AllREIT's picture
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rightway wrote:I run our POA program, and over the last 7 years we have graduated 80%
(the firm average is around 60% I think), and a couple are nearly
million dollar producers now.  When someone gets let go their book
is usually not attractive enought for any viable rep to want it. 
I cannot speak for the rest of the country, but all of the coach
meeting I go to in Princeton seem to indicate the same tone. 

I find it extremely hard to beleive that 80% of people who are accepted to be POA's graduate.

GolFA's picture
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Joined: 2007-06-19

Rightway, what are the main client aquisition techniques used by your successful trainees?

rightway's picture
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AllREIT wrote:
rightway wrote:I run our POA program, and over the last 7 years we have graduated 80%
(the firm average is around 60% I think), and a couple are nearly
million dollar producers now.  When someone gets let go their book
is usually not attractive enought for any viable rep to want it. 
I cannot speak for the rest of the country, but all of the coach
meeting I go to in Princeton seem to indicate the same tone. 

I find it extremely hard to beleive that 80% of people who are accepted to be POA's graduate.

It's true, thats our rate since 2003 (when I took it over).  I
don't take the credit though, we got real good at hiring and we turn
away far far more than we take (we currently have about 25
members).   When new people come in they spend alot of time
from the senior POA collegues, who learned from the successfull
ones...etc...  Once you have a good program, it sustains itself
quite nicely with the culture.  You know- Succes breeds success.

rightway's picture
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GolFA wrote:Rightway, what are the main client aquisition techniques used by your successful trainees?

We focus on their natural market intially then branch into niches from there. 

Example:  We had a woman who's friend became an early client of
hers, and her friend was active in her churches community out-reach
program.  They got together and created a program to promote
Spiritual Fitness, Physical Fitness, and Financial Fitness.  They
got a trainer from trainer together with the priest and they did
workshops at the church every week.  They get 10-20 people at each
one and she pays nothing in seminar expense.  She graduated in 12
months and is now doing around 500k a year in production (she started
in mid 2004).

We do not train on cold calling or cold walking.  My philosphy in
general is that the successfull component of each FA is a unique
quality about their personality that they give off and others are
attracted to without even knowing it.  We spend a great deal of
time finding that quality and learning how to promote it (and knowing
when prospects DO NOT find it attractive- stop prospecting these
people).  To build a business this way you have to be out face to
face in situations where they can eperience you, which is why the best
POA's are rarely in the office.

There are many ways to get it done, this is just the way I promote all of them pretty much follow it.

Analyst's picture
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rightway wrote: GolFA wrote:Rightway, what are the main client aquisition techniques used by your successful trainees?We focus on their natural market intially then branch into niches from there.  Example:  We had a woman who's friend became an early client of hers, and her friend was active in her churches community out-reach program.  They got together and created a program to promote Spiritual Fitness, Physical Fitness, and Financial Fitness.  They got a trainer from trainer together with the priest and they did workshops at the church every week.  They get 10-20 people at each one and she pays nothing in seminar expense.  She graduated in 12 months and is now doing around 500k a year in production (she started in mid 2004).We do not train on cold calling or cold walking.  My philosphy in general is that the successfull component of each FA is a unique quality about their personality that they give off and others are attracted to without even knowing it.  We spend a great deal of time finding that quality and learning how to promote it (and knowing when prospects DO NOT find it attractive- stop prospecting these people).  To build a business this way you have to be out face to face in situations where they can eperience you, which is why the best POA's are rarely in the office.There are many ways to get it done, this is just the way I promote all of them pretty much follow it.
 
That's really interesting rightway, and makes a lot of sense.  I'm going to print this one out for future reference.  Thanks for the post!

WealthManager's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-16

BullBroker wrote:If you are going to be giving advice on this board try to at very least make it a little more accurate.  It is not only $15million, $10million must be in annuitized assets.  "IF" you did get the $10 million and graduated with the minimum bonus of $10000 cash $25000 stock, your net worth just jumped $35000.  Then (inless ALL of your clients left) the minimum you could make annually is $50,000.  $10million annuitized= (@minimum) 1% annual fee=$100,000 if you have only been there 2 years you are still on 50% grid, 50% of $100,000 = $50,000 annual salary.  And $50,000/year is better than 90% of the worlds population make in a year.  Bull,   Unfortunately for you my advice is more accurate than you realize.  It seems that you have drunk the koolaid and have not verified the facts.   Yes, you are correct, you need to have $10mm annuitized but you are completely off with your @ minimum 1% annual fee.  Depending what annuitized assets you have, your velocity can be MUCH lower than 1%.  Remember that there are assets that count as annuitized that don't pay much of a trail if any.  (i.e. mortgages)  Please do yourself a favor and ask recent POA graduates what their velocity was upon graduating.  While I admit a salary of $25k a year is on the low end, it is a possible salary (meaning without bonuses) that you can have upon graduating.  It can however be even worse.  You can be meeting your hurdles and go off salary without graduating and still keep your job.  Please remember that you have 24-months to graduate but if your salary is over $40k then you only get 18-months of it.   I know that you've only been with ML for just over 6-months but you should try to be more aware of the possibilities of the salary dip.  --WM

BullBroker's picture
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WealthManager wrote: BullBroker wrote:
If you are going to be giving advice on this board try to at very least make it a little more accurate.  It is not only $15million, $10million must be in annuitized assets.  "IF" you did get the $10 million and graduated with the minimum bonus of $10000 cash $25000 stock, your net worth just jumped $35000.  Then (in less ALL of your clients left) the minimum you could make annually is $50,000.  $10million annuitized= (@minimum) 1% annual fee=$100,000 if you have only been there 2 years you are still on 50% grid, 50% of $100,000 = $50,000 annual salary.  And $50,000/year is better than 90% of the worlds population make in a year. 
Bull,   Unfortunately for you my advice is more accurate than you realize.  It seems that you have drunk the koolaid and have not verified the facts.   Yes, you are correct, you need to have $10mm annuitized but you are completely off with your @ minimum 1% annual fee.  Depending what annuitized assets you have, your velocity can be MUCH lower than 1%.  Remember that there are assets that count as annuitized that don't pay much of a trail if any.  (i.e. mortgages)  Please do yourself a favor and ask recent POA graduates what their velocity was upon graduating.  While I admit a salary of $25k a year is on the low end, it is a possible salary (meaning without bonuses) that you can have upon graduating.  It can however be even worse.  You can be meeting your hurdles and go off salary without graduating and still keep your job.  Please remember that you have 24-months to graduate but if your salary is over $40k then you only get 18-months of it.   I know that you've only been with ML for just over 6-months but you should try to be more aware of the possibilities of the salary dip.  --WM
 
You are looking at this the wrong way.  Is it possible to graduate POA and only make $25K the following year??  I am going with YES, it is possible.  Is it probable??? Absolutly not.  With the quality of people and the increased scrutiny ML is putting on the BM's in the hiring process, ML is not going to hire someone who can't produce.  Meaning, yes you could get out of POA with $15million in Mortagages, Munibonds, and VRP's that pay practically nothing as far as a trail goes.  Your average POA is not going to do that, your going to put your clients in managed money, (consults, CDP, MFA) and C-share mutual funds.  I would say 90%+ POA's who graduate make more the following year than their POA salary.  But, like you said I have only been here 6-months so I have only seen our Branches way of doing business.   

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