* Broker attrition in 4th qtr was at a "record low"
* Merrill saw slower attrition among the top producers
* Merrill brokers' initial worries about BofA have eased
By Joseph Giannone and Joe Rauch
NEW YORK, Jan 14 Sallie Krawcheck says reports
of the great broker exodus have been greatly exaggerated.
Indeed, the president of Bank of America's global wealth
and investment management division on Thursday told reporters
that departures among top-producing financial advisers sank to
a "record low" during the fourth quarter.
Krawcheck, who last year took over as head of the mighty
Merrill Lynch brokerage business, said there was some attrition
earlier in 2009 but the pace of departures dropped through the
"Quite frankly, we haven't seen as much as we would have
expected," she said on a conference call to discuss a quarterly
survey on retirement planning.
Krawcheck said attrition among the top 40 percent of
brokers, ranked by profits, was half the rate of the best
previous year ever.
Overall, the bank's adviser attrition rate fell to a record
low in the fourth quarter, she said. Bank of America Corp
(BAC.N) is scheduled to report fourth-quarter results next
Krawcheck's comments contrast with reports of a flood of
financial advisers leaving major "wirehouse" brokerages like
Merrill to join smaller firms or independent adviser
"Despite what I read about these big attrition rates, it's
not happening," Krawcheck said. "They're not going to the RIAs
(registered investment advisers) in droves."
Breakaway brokers and recruiters contend there is
widespread dissatisfaction with the big brokerages, and that
the independence movement will continue this year. The
financial crisis, which brought Merrill Lynch to its knees and
prompted its sale to Bank of America, eroded confidence in the
staying power of the big banks.
Krawcheck said widespread fears among Merrill brokers of
how business would change under the Bank of America flag have
faded. As a result, she said, broker departures slowed.
"There are no quotas and there are no plans to sell X,Y or
Z product," said Krawcheck.
Instead, she said brokers have found clients are asking for
a broad array of products and services beyond investments, a
trend that favors diversified companies like Bank of America.
"I'm not Pollyanna. I worry about lots of things that keep
me up at night," Krawcheck said. "But the business is better
off than it seems to be."
(Reporting by Joe Rauch in Charlotte, North Carolina, and
Joseph A. Giannone in New York; editing by John Wallace)