While Merrill Lynch moved some financial advisers and trainees to work on client inquiries and processing federal assistance programs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the thundering herd is also tapping the brakes, at least for the near future, on hiring any new financial adviser trainees.
At any given time, Merrill Lynch has 3,000 to 3,500 financial adviser trainees working across it giant wealth management and private banking platform, which together with Bank of America private bank posted $4.94 billion in total revenues for the first quarter of the year, an increase of 2.4% compared to the first quarter of 2019, according to the first-quarter earnings report of its parent company, Bank of America Corp., which was released Wednesday morning.
But the limitations created by COVID-19 on businesses of all stripes are hurting potential new hires at Merrill Lynch.
“There’s no ability for face-to-face interviews” with potential hires because of social distancing required by the coronavirus, said a senior Merrill Lynch executive, who asked not to be named. “We have offers for people to join us in April in the training program but other new hire activities will be paused. The focus for the management team needs to turn to existing teammates.”
Merrill Lynch, of course, still has trainees currently in the pipeline who are graduating and becoming full-time advisers.
The federal government last month created the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, with the goal to pump hundreds of billions of dollars to businesses and individuals feeling economic pain from the impact of the coronavirus.
Merrill Lynch said Wednesday it had moved 700 advisers to support client CARES Act inquiries. The private bank was also aligning adviser trainees and wealth management analysts to support CARES Act application processing.
The firm reported 17,646 financial advisers at the end of March, an increase of less than 1% compared to the same period a year earlier.