April 19, 2019
What We’re Reading This Week
Jeff regularly describes Bank of America and its counterpart Merrill Lynch as the “Evil Empire” and understandably so. Sure, it’s not a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money,” but who is anymore?
Regardless, Merrill represents, to me, an older, more traditional side to the industry. Granted, since the merger with Bank of America, it has been crudely ushered into the 21st century. Not least of all, is the recent move to bring 300 “financial solutions advisors” to its traditional wealth-management offices.
Most financial management firms work predominantly with baby boomers for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks, “because that’s where the money is.” However, many firms are facing a problem: they must adapt their offerings to work with younger clientele, or risk losing the relationship later on (and sometimes now). That’s the obvious problem. The more nuanced issue is that a lot of people simply expect more from their money manager.
But what is a “financial solutions advisor”? These are (typically) younger employees that assist Merrill clients with opening web-based accounts that don’t include paying a fee to a financial advisor. This sort of makes sense if you are a very large, commercially successful bank where financial performance is measured in the aggregate. It’s sort of a bummer if you are a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch who measures financial performance in a very specific, personal way.
The future of personal finance has a lot more to do with aligning client interests and advisor incentives than pairing two service providers with fundamentally opposing business structures.
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