Steven Wagner Explains Why Advisors are Leaving Merrill Lynch to Business Insider
From January to October 2021, around 321 advisors left Merrill Lynch, according to a recent BrokerCheck data analysis, with many leaving after decades of loyal service. Compared to the 103, 147 and 153 advisor departures during the same period at Wells Fargo, UBS and Morgan Stanley respectively, these figures are staggering.
To understand why advisors are leaving Merrill in droves, Business Insider spoke with Omnia Family Wealth Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Steven Wagner for insight on his experience as a former Merrill advisor and what influenced him to create his current multi-family office in Aventura, Florida.
“For most of my career, if people were at Merrill, they didn’t leave. They were lifers,” Wagner tells the publication. “That has changed.”
One of the main factors likely behind this change occurred in January 2009, when Bank of America closed on its deal to purchase Merrill. On the outside, the changes that came from this acquisition resulted in Merrill reporting a record amount of revenue, number of clients and client balances. However, behind the scenes, the firm is paying a hefty price as large numbers of experienced advisors, like Wagner, are leaving for greener pastures.
“You’re appreciative of some it – the ability to have the scale of the banking platform,” says Wagner on Merrill’s ties to Bank of America. “You’re not appreciative of the heavy-handedness in trying to do cross-referrals and direct business to the bank.” According to Wagner, Merrill’s place inside the bank felt like a “double-edged sword.”
While Wagner looks back fondly on the dedication and loyalty of his previous team, he says that the mandates to sell more banking products to clients became frustrating. Now, Wagner runs a firm built around putting families, not products, first as independent advisors free from outside influence.