"They made money."
That's the reason that Bob McCann, the president of Merrill Lynch's massive global wealth management group, is still considered the top-running candidate to become the next chief executive by the rank-and-file of the company. He is considered a long-shot by outsiders—and perhaps by members of the board of directors—but he has strong support inside Merrill Lynch.
In a disastrous third quarter for Merill, McCann's brokerage saw a 23 percent surge in revenues, taking in $3.3 billion in the third quarter. The brokers took control of $26 billion in net new client assets, its strongest quarter in more than six years.
It's well known that McCann is immensely popular with the 16,000 brokers at Merrill. But his support is much broader than that. Across the firm, many believe that McCann may be the person who can lead Merrill out of its current morass. The greatest opposition to McCann appears to be in those areas where there is the most fear that the elevation of McCann might oversee a retrenchment. But many who work in the fixed income groups, for instance, already believe that their days may be numbered.
The brokers are already moving to put pressure on the upper-ranks of the company to name a chief executive quickly. They are spreading the word that the uncertainty at the company may be putting the brokerage business at risk, as investors wonder whether their money is safe with a company with a conspicuous void at the top.
Water-cooler odds makers are putting their money on McCann. They believe that eventually the board will come around to the view that it needs to re-invigorate the firm with a popular chief executive with support within the firm, and McCann fits that description nicely.
Larry Fink, the chief of Blackrock, is also widely admired and would be welcomed by many within Merrill. But many at the company believe that he may have already turned down the job, perhaps because he is unwilling to leave Blackrock or perhaps because he has been put-off by the apparent lack of consensus about corporate strategy at the board level.
"They made money."