Merrill Lynch pauses client prospecting for advisor trainees

Entrance Bank of America Merrill Lynch Financial Centre in London on October 9, 2014 BLOOMBERG NEWS
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Merrill Lynch is pausing client prospecting for its roughly 3,000 advisor trainees for a few weeks to provide new training on technology and procedures, according to an internal memo.

The firm’s training program, dubbed Financial Advisor Development Program, is one of the largest on the Street and lasts approximately 40 months. The pause will effectively extend that by a few weeks.

It may be an opportune moment for the policy shift. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, in-person prospecting is difficult to do. And the majority of Merrill’s employees are working from home as are their industry peers across the country.

The new training will focus on call list procedures, required documentation of interactions and the use of new prospecting technologies in a work-from-home environment, according to the firm.

To ease the process for trainees, Merrill Lynch will also freeze their length-of-service and other goals, and there will be no negative impact on their performance hurdles.

Though the firm is putting the brakes on new prospecting, trainees will continue to serve existing clients and take previously scheduled calls or virtual meetings with prospective clients. They can also take inbound calls from prospects.

The 18-month project is part of the $3 billion that Bank of America allocates annually to new technology initiatives.
June 9

The temporary ban on new prospecting also applies to sending LinkedIn messages, according to the memo.

Previous generations of advisors came of age during times of hardship (Black Monday, the dot-com bubble), but this may be the first class of trainees to learn the business amid a public health crisis.

States that had tried re-opening early, such as Texas and Florida, have experienced dramatic spikes in coronavirus cases and have since reimposed some lockdown measures.

There have been more than 4.4 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., and more than 150,000 Americans have died from the virus, the highest death toll for any country.

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