Merrill aims to foster new advisor talent from within BofA's ranks

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To better foster its internal talent pipeline, Bank of America Merrill Lynch named two co-heads of advisor development.

In their new roles, Matt Gellene and Eric Schimpf will help develop a career path for the firm’s financial solution advisors to become full-fledged Merrill Lynch financial advisors. FSAs, a position created in 2011 to service consumers of Bank of America’s Merrill Edge and Merrill Guided Investing offerings.

Internal candidates who become new financial advisors at Merrill Lynch tend to outperform those brought in from outside the company, according to the firm. Gellene and Schimpf will aim to create a natural progression and training system for budding advisors.

The internal candidates already have familiarity with Bank of America’s operations, and advisors in the FSA channel are licensed.

Bank of America fields more than 19,000 of what it calls wealth advisors across its wealth management business, according to the company’s second quarter earnings report. The unit includes Merrill Lynch, Merrill Edge and a private bank.

Finding and growing new talent has long been a challenge for the industry. The average age for an advisor in the wirehouse channel is about 52, according to data from research firm Cerulli Associates.

In recent years, Merrill Lynch and some of its rivals have reduced efforts to recruit veteran advisors from competitors. The wirehouse has instead focused on filling out its ranks with younger talent, either through its recruiting program or by picking up early career advisors from rival firms.

Merrill Lynch is also adding a seventh division for early career financial advisors, which Schimpf will also oversee. He has served as a division executive for the wirehouse’s Southeast division, as well as a managing director for the community markets. Schimpf has been with Bank of America since 2004.

Gellene, who serves as head of consumer client management, has been with the bank since 2009.

Earlier this year, Merrill Lynch paused client prospecting for roughly 3,000 advisor trainees in order to provide additional training, the firm said. In August, Merrill Lynch launched a new practice management program to boost growth among its existing advisors.

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