Merrill Lynch’s worldwide broker sales force continues to shrink.

The company reported last week that it has dropped almost 1,700 brokers from the ranks of its worldwide sales force within the past six months, mostly by not replacing brokers who have retired or left the firm, and through cutbacks in its training program.

According to a quarterly report filed with the SEC Aug. 10, Merrill employed 18,500 brokers at the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2001, which ended June 29.

At the end of 2000, the firm employed 20,200 brokers, according to the filing.

The reduction in the first six months of 2001 is the result of attrition, significantly reduced hiring of trainees and the consolidation of offices,” the firm explained in its 10-Q filing.

Spokesperson Eddie Reeves tells RR that the firm is not fixed on any particular number as an ultimate goal for its retail sales force. Merrill continues to recruit brokers, “albeit more selectively” than it has done in the past, he says.

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