Merill Lynch shed almost 200 advisors in the fourth quarter but managed to grow client balances.
The number of financial advisors in Merrill Lynch slipped from 17,657 in the third quarter to 17,458 at the end of the year, according to Bank of America’s fourth-quarter earnings report. Merrill Lynch attributes that “in large part to seasonally lower hiring in our training program.”
That’s also lower than the 17,518 advisors the unit had at the end of 2018.
The total number of wealth advisors in BofA’s global wealth and investment management unit, which includes Merrill Lynch and Private Bank, was 19,440 at the end of 2019, which was 232 fewer than in the third quarter, and 19 lower than the previous year, according to the report.
But the unit’s client balances reached $3.05 trillion at the end of 2019, an increase of 16% from the fourth quarter of 2018, BofA says. The company attributes the growth to higher market valuation as well as $88 billion in net inflows in assets under management in the fourth quarter.
Merrill Lynch’s share of the client balances was $2.56 trillion at the end of the year, according to the report.
Merrill Lynch advisor productivity, meanwhile, inched up in 2019 to $1.082 million, compared with $1.034 million in 2018. And net new households at the wirehouse rose 25% in 2019 over the year prior. They rose 64% at the Private Bank.
Net income in the unit overall slipped to $1.035 billion in the fourth quarter, which was $63 million lower than in the third quarter and $48 million lower than in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to the report.