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For years, Merrill Lynch was able to maintain its distinct identity following its humiliating acquisition by Bank of America during the financial crisis. It was almost as if the thundering herd continued to roam wild, without the brand of Brian Moynihan and one of the country’s most embarrassing banks burned into their hides. And part of this feeling of freedom and independence and difference came in the form of its legendary training program, a cut-throat rite of passage that few complete, which in its heyday involved making hundreds or even a thousand cold-calls in a day.

Now, sure, cold-calling has hardly worked for decades now, and gets less and less successful with each passing year and each severed landline. At its best a 1% success proposition, nowadays only 2% of people even answer the phone when cold-called, meaning it’s not much of a business proposition anymore. But as an inculcator of culture, the people running Merrill Lynch deemed it irreplaceable.

Of course, those people don’t work for Merrill Lynch anymore. They work for “Merrill” after a BofA-imposed rebranding two years ago. A given that it doesn’t work anymore, and also apparently led to a series of “problematic phone calls,” having pushy, ambitious kids waste their time listening to a ringtone that is almost never answered just isn’t a luxury BriMoy & co. are willing to extend to Merrill anymore.

Trainees will get more referrals from the bank’s pool of 66 million retail customers, people familiar with the matter said. They will also be encouraged to contact prospects over LinkedIn, which has a higher hit rate than cold calling, they said….

The pandemic threw Merrill’s adviser training into disarray. Trainees started working from home, where they were cut off from holding in-person meetings. They were encouraged to continue cold calling, they said.

Some trainees called people on the do-not-call list, a Merrill executive said in a memo earlier reported by Insider, which can lead to regulatory penalties. In July, the bank told trainees to stop prospecting for new business indefinitely.

Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch to Ban Trainee Brokers From Making Cold Calls [WSJ]


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