Jennifer MacPhee, national financial adviser development program performance executive at Merrill Lynch
Jennifer MacPhee has an outsized role to play these days at Merrill Lynch, among the largest US wealth managers.
MacPhee is the national financial adviser development program performance executive there, aiming to improve trainee advisers’ graduation rates and shape new advisers at a do-or-die time for the broader industry.
Around one-third of US financial advisers are expected to have retired between 2014 and 2024, per Cerulli Associates data, with a mere 9% of advisers younger than 35 years old. And about three-quarters of trainees dropped out industry-wide in 2018, in-line with recent years.
“There is a clientele that wants robo-advice, and there are always going to be clients who want a full-service, local financial adviser in their market,” MacPhee, who has been with Bank of America and its predecessors for nearly two decades, said in an interview.
Merrill Lynch doesn’t disclose its graduation rates for its signature trainee program. But Andy Sieg, the head of Bank of America’s wealth arm, told us earlier this month that it’s “not as high as we would like.”
Business Insider was first to report that Merrill Lynch earlier this year bumped up its trainee financial advisers’ average starting salaries by about $10,000 to $65,000.
At the same time, the firm installed 75 performance managers around the country to coach people in its financial adviser development program. The wealth unit had some 3,500 trainees in its program as of the third quarter.
MacPhee also serves as Bank of America’s market president for the Albany and Hudson Valley region of New York, getting out in the community and leading volunteer efforts for the firm.
We reported earlier this month that financial-advisers-in-training there who exit the trainee program without becoming full-fledged advisers are more commonly transitioning to different roles within the firm instead of leaving altogether.
That trend unfolding at Merrill Lynch underscores advisers’ evolving career paths, and how firms are adapting to that.
“We’ve placed hundreds of people in other roles in the company just this year, and it’s been great,” MacPhee told us. “This is talent that we sourced, and hired, and we want to keep at the company — and they’re happy that maybe they’re in a role that’s maybe a better fit.”
Recruiters and experts describe to us an increasingly difficult environment for wealth advisers across the industry as the business of wealth management has become more competitive and crowded with countless digital self-directed options.