Jan. 4, 2001 Merrill Lynch brokers have applauded the firm’s cost-cutting measures, which included 1,800 layoffs in the brokerage division to reduce the "bloated bureaucracy" that reps say was mushrooming at headquarters.But some of those recent cutbacks are hitting too close to home. Several producers complain that hiring freezes are preventing them from adding much-needed sales assistants.

"If they need to tighten up the ship, that’s fine, but don’t beat up the people who are bringing home the bread," says a broker in the Southwest whose office has a hiring freeze.A rep in the Southeast also says his branch has a moratorium on hiring. The firm is "cutting costs everywhere" because, in his view, it’s being polished up for an eventual sale.Another producer in the Southeast confirms that marketing budgets, especially money for seminars and other promotions, is tighter than ever. Those restrictions are inhibiting growth, he says.

"Stan O’Neal has done a wonderful job trimming the fat and making this company leaner and meaner," the broker says. "But now they’re taking resources away from the individual FCs. I can’t understand why they’re cutting back so drastically during the best economy we’ve ever had." -- Mike Hayes

For more on Merrill’s cost-cutting, see "Merrill Trims Fat, Some Reps Feel the Pinch," November 2000, RR, Page 32.

Editor's note: For any comments regarding this article, or to suggest a story idea for RR Online or Registered Representative magazine, contact Editor in Chief Dan Jamieson at dan_jamieson@intertec.com, Online Editor Rick Weinberg at rick_weinberg@intertec.com, Online Managing Editor Cheryl Cooper at cheryl_cooper@intertec.com or Senior Editor Michael Hayes at mike_hayes@intertec.com