Merrill Lynch & Co. may be dead, but long live Merrill Lynch.

While Bank of America has announced plans to dissolve Merrill Lynch & Co. as soon as the fourth quarter of this year, the roughly 14,000 advisors operating in its brokerage division shouldn't see a name change.

“There will be no change for customers and clients who do business with our primary broker-dealer, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith,” said Susan McCabe, a spokeswoman for the Global Wealth and Investment Management Division. “It will be business as usual at the brokerage and for our advisors and the name does not change.”

In a move that comes more than four years since its acquisition of Merrill Lynch, BofA said in an SEC filing that it would likely do away with Merrill Lynch & Co., the brokerage’s parent company, as a separate legal entity. As a result, the bank would take on Merrill Lynch & Co.’s obligations, such as outstanding debt securities, and Merrill Lynch & Co. would no longer file separate reports with the SEC.


All leadership and management operations in the brokerage and investment banking divisions would remain the same, however, said McCabe.

“There’s no change in the operations of our businesses, the brand structure or how we face and interact with clients,” McCabe said. “Merrill Lynch and the bull are still there.”

The broker-dealer currently does business as Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. After the change takes place, it will continue to be a business division within Bank of America, but its debt, for example, would be reported on Bank of America’s balance sheets rather than separately under Merrill Lynch & Co.

The name change is a "natural step" in the context of the merger and is likely to further intertwine the two companies, said Alois Pirker, a research director at Boston-based consulting firm Aite Group. 

"This step might make it a little harder though to break up the two companies again, should it come to that in the future," he said. "Clearly it indicates that they are serious about the merger."

Not all advisors are even aware of the intended name change; one advisor who asked not to be identified said it would be a big deal if the Merrill Lynch name was taken off the brokerage.

The move is “consistent with ongoing work to reduce complexity and streamline organizational entities, which has been previously reported as an industry-wide priority in the wake of the Dodd Frank legislation,” McCabe said.

Once BofA puts the change in motion, the move would be subject to regulatory approval. 

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