Did Merrill Lynch Just Cancel Christmas?

From "Thundering Herd" to thundering-mad. Having recently laid off 100s of staff and cut compensation plans, AdvisorHub reports that Mother Merrill may be canceling Christmas for its roughly 14,500 brokers - "we’re hearing that in many regions the Bank of America-owned brokerage firm has sent out word that there will be no Merrill-financed holiday parties this year." Such Grinch-like moves have little precedent, and brokers in some areas have retaliated.

One large office in the New York area quietly arranged a party but was so cautious that it issued no email invitations and kept it so far below the radar “for fear of Big Brother ‘catching them” that a good number of people “missed the event amidst general disarray,” a well-connected source tells us.

 

“In the old days, we’d just do one [party] and deal with the consequences, but now managers are just too scared,’” he writes.

 

One branch manager in another New York-area branch with about two dozen advisors is getting kudos for throwing a holiday event for staff, spouses and significant others – and paying for it out of his own pocket, according to our source.  We are eager to hear what happens when management gets wind of the manager’s winning audacity.

 

What’s the holiday spirit in your shop this season?  Is the sobering increase in mass shootings and terrorism eroding the urge to celebrate?  Are robo-advisors, regulatory fears and mediocre investment outlooks casting cold water on the holiday spirit?

 

We hardly think that these times are comparable to 2001, when many holiday parties were canceled in the wake of 9/11, or even in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 credit crisis when partying again seemed unseemly when so many Americans were losing jobs and homes.

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Interestingly, Bank of America’s wealth management business is having a very good year, booking a profit margin of 24% last quarter, better than archrival Morgan Stanley’s 22%. Perhaps what’s changed is parent company expectations.

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