NEW YORK — Bank of America Corp. global wealth and investment management president Sallie Krawcheck said Thursday that broker departures were at an all-time low in the fourth quarter of 2009.
Krawcheck, on a media conference call Thursday morning, said the percentage of brokers who left last quarter was half the previously low for the firm.
The slowdown in departures is a positive twist, after the company saw a flood of adviser departures after Bank of America's acquisition of Merrill Lynch on Dec. 31, 2008.
When Bank of America announced its plan to acquire Merrill, the combined brokerage was touting 20,000 advisers, but that figure was down to about 15,000 by the end of the third quarter.
"Going into this downturn, I would've expected a lot more advisers to leave Wall Street and go to RIAs or smaller firms," Krawcheck said, referring to registered investment advisers. "We've seen some of that, but frankly not that much of it. That trend is changing, because clients want advisers to be at a place that is financially strong and has capabilities to solve these broad issues."
Krawcheck said she plans to bring in more advisers to accommodate what the company expects to be a growing demand for financial planning.
"While certainly we would look to add to the head count, it's not at an extremely high rate," Krawcheck said.
Merrill began recruiting aggressively in the second half of 2009, after going practically dark at the beginning of the year during the height of its integration with Bank of America.
In a report by research firm Discovery Database, which tracks adviser moves each month, Merrill ranked best among the major brokerages in recruiting and attrition.
Krawcheck said that in addition to bringing in experienced advisers from other firms, the brokerage will also be adding to its training program for advisers new to the business.
Merrill's rookie training program, called Practice Management Development, has long been a leader in the industry. While many firms, including Merrill, cut back on drastically on rookie training in the wake of the financial crisis and industry consolidation, most brokerages are beginning to get back in that game now.