Merrill’s Raleigh Manager Splits for Wells Fargo’s Bank Channel
Although Merrill Lynch has antagonized some of its veteran brokers by pressing them to work closely with parent Bank of America in selling loans and other bank services, a longtime broker in Raleigh, NC said he wasn’t getting enough support from his bank colleagues.
William D. Peyton Sr., who was with Merrill for entire 22-year brokerage career, left to join the in-bank division of Wells Fargo Advisors on July 27, he confirmed.
Peyton, who was a trust officer at the former Wachovia Bank before shifting to Merrill, said he and two associates moved to Wells Fargo’s Wealth Brokerage Services because its private-banking, family-office service model was more congenial than what he was getting for his clients at Merrill.
He cited the fact that his team sits on the same floor with a banking and insurance specialists and estate planners who can fill the needs of his affluent clients. His client households keep an average of more than $3 million in their accounts, he said.
“We have the ability to have a family-office team rather than trying to build out our own group of FAs,” he said from his new digs at 4208 Six Forks Road in Raleigh, just down the block from Merrill’s outpost at 4242 Six Forks. “I would not have moved to the wirehouse channel at Wells Fargo.”
Merrill, to be sure, has been actively marketing its banking cred and has been including bank representatives’ names and contact numbers on the team websites of some of its financial advisor teams.
A Merrill spokeswoman did not return a request for comment on Peyton’s observations.
Peyton said his experience with Merrill’s banking specialists often resulted in headaches, making him or a member of his team responsible for customer issues with loans or other banking products.
“You can only be an expert in certain areas and we never wanted to be an expert in checking, savings, credit cards,” he said, “but all it takes is one little issue…and those [client] conversations can take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour.”
Under Wells’ WBS model, clients are assigned a specific banking specialist who Peyton said appears to collaborate closely with clients to resolve issues.
The Wells in-bank unit is run by former Merrill Lynch executive Jim Hays and targets clients that generally have up to $5 million in assets, according to a 2015 . It includes around 3,200 of Wells Fargo Advisors’ almost 15,000 brokers, and is the brokerage channel most closely associated with the community bank division of Wells, where its fake-account scandal was generated.
Peyton, who was a producing manager at Merrill’s Raleigh office until shifting last September to “focus on his business,” said that his team felt comfortable despite the headline risk at the parent bank.
“We did a tremendous amount of due diligence,” Peyton said. “They were very transparent with us, and we really felt that regardless of what is going on with the bank, we’re on the brokerage side.”
The timing was also right, he said, in part because of his discontent with Merrill’s decision to eliminate commission-based brokerage accounts to avoid potential issues with complying with the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule.
Wells Fargo Advisors’ private client group, the standalone brokerage branch unit of more than 10,000 brokers, has been on the defensive since the outbreak of the Wells scandal, recording net new broker losses in recent quarters. Unlike rivals such as Merrill, Morgan Stanley and UBS Financial Services that have been cutting back on recruiting veterans, it has ramped up its compensation offers to veteran brokers from rival firms.