Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

The Complete Guide to What We Do

Merrill Lynch is the wealth management and investing arm of Bank of America. The company also engages in prime brokerage as well as broker-dealer activities. Headquartered in New York, Merrill Lynch has a global footprint. The Merrill Lynch wealth management practice is quite large. It employs some 14,000 financial advisors and manages $2.3 trillion in assets. If you happen to have $10 million or more in investible liquid assets and are considering a wealth management firm, then we highly recommend you to read this guide on choosing the best financial advisor.

Merrill Lynch offers a host of services under wealth management like investment management, insurance and risk management, retirement planning, impact investing, philanthropy and grantmaking, etc. It is a Wall Street firm with offices in various regions of the US. Being part of Bank of America also allows Merrill Lynch to give clients access to a range of banking solutions. A regional or niche firm has a different approach. A firm like Pillar Wealth Management focuses exclusively on wealth management for clients with $5 million to $500 million in liquid investible assets. It also offers services in all of the areas as any major Wall Street firm. However, being a smaller firm, it can offer a highly personalized and customized service.

Choosing the right wealth management firm to work with is a big decision. To help you evaluate your options insightfully, we have decided to write the following guide. We will answer questions like what types of clients does Merrill Lynch Wealth Management accept. We will explore the services offered to Merrill Lynch accounts for high-net-worth individuals. Another important point of discussion will be the fees under Merrill Lynch wealth management. Lastly, we will offer some tips for finding a top financial advisor.

What Types of Clients Does Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Accept?

Every wealth management firm has a certain threshold in terms of the account size. It works only with those individuals/families that have a certain amount of liquid investible assets. This is the case with Merrill Lynch wealth management or any other firm because wealth management caters to affluent clients. Pillar Wealth Management caters to clients with $5 million to $500 million in investible liquid assets.

You might ask what types of clients does Merrill Lynch wealth management accept. Historically, Merrill Lynch catered to those individuals who had $1 million or more in investible liquid assets. However, individual Merrill advisors may work with a minimum account size of at least $10 million. Of course, Merrill Lynch has an investment advisory program and something known as Merrill Edge, an automated online program. For these options, anyone with as little as $5,000 can get started. But, if we talk about high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals, then $10 million seems to be the threshold. Before you make any decisions, we encourage you to download this guide on choosing the best financial advisor for individuals and families with $5 million to $500 million in liquid assets.

Other than the account size, there is no significant metric to screen clients as far as most wealth management firms are concerned. Pillar Wealth management has worked with engineers, tech-industry executives, medical professionals, entrepreneurs, wealthy families, and all sorts of affluent people. Amassing the experience of working with people from such diverse professional backgrounds has allowed the firm to build a system that works. It has a blueprint on how to handle issues that are common for a client from a specific background. Feel free to schedule a conversation with Hutch Ashoo to know more about Pillar Wealth Management’s expertise.

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

Merrill Lynch Accounts for High-Net-Worth Individuals

High net worth individuals have a diverse set of financial needs. Most people think that the more money one has, the easier their life is. However, what they don’t realize is that the more money one has, the more responsibility there is to protect and grow that wealth. Achieving financial goals requires careful thinking and planning. And with a portfolio worth a few million dollars, the stakes are that much higher.

Merrill Lynch accounts for high-net-worth individuals focuses on goal identification. Merrill Lynch wealth management holds a review meeting with the client once every year. This approach works well for those who do not have a lot of time for long meetings and are comfortable with a wealth advisor handling all the decisions.

For those ultra-high net worth individuals who feel more comfortable knowing that they can simply pick up the phone and speak directly to their wealth manager whenever they need to, a boutique firm can be a great fit. For example, at Pillar Wealth Management, we know every one of our clients by the first name. We are like a family friend or a family doctor that you can rely on whenever you need to speak to us about your finances.

We encourage you to check out this book calledThe Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Financial Advisor: For Investors With $5 Million to $500 Million in Liquid Assets. It will give you a reasonably good idea of the processes and working styles of top wealth management firms. Wealth management is a continuous ongoing process. We believe that a good wealth manager will not simply create a wealth plan and then put it away in a drawer for months. Start a conversation with Pillar Wealth Management to know more.

Fees Under Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

Fees under Merrill Lynch wealth management vary according to the account size. In addition to these fees, there is also what Merrill Lynch calls a Style Manager fee. This depends on whether you choose a particular style manager strategy.

Most wealth management firms follow two compensation structures. Either there is a fee-only model or a fee-based model. A fee-only model involves a fee that is either a percentage of the assets under management or based on an hourly rate. Sometimes, an amount is pre-determined based on fixed milestones. A fee-based structure involves a fee component as well as commissions. The client does not pay thecommissions. Rather, the product company whose products the client invests in (or purchases) pays the commission to the wealth manager for “aiding” the sale of the product.

At Pillar Wealth Management, we follow a fee-only model. Our fees are a fixed percentage of the liquid investible assets that you ask us to manage. We like to keep things simple. We also believe that following a fee-only model best serves our clients because our financial incentives are aligned with the quality of advice that we provide to our clients. There is no motivation to “push” or “market” a product to the client in the hope of earning a commission.Get in touch with Hutch Ashoo to know more about the fee-only structure. We believe that the financial rewards for a wealth manager have to be in sync with the best interests of the client.

Fiduciary Advisor

Another important aspect of wealth management that you might want to consider besides the fee structure is whether your wealth manager is a registered fiduciary. A fiduciary is an investment advisor that is legally required to always act in the best interests of the client. This means offering the right investment advice, the right financial advice, and pointing out any potential conflict-of-interest situation whenever it comes up.

Trust is, perhaps, the biggest confidence builder in wealth management. A wealth manager is someone who you will entrust with your hard-earned money. This can only happen when you trust that person to do the right things. A fiduciary status can build such trust.

To become a fiduciary, a wealth manager has to register with the SEC or the state regulator, as the case may be in your area. Once the wealth manager is registered, he/she is expected to always act in your best interests. If he/she does not, then there is the danger of him/her losing the fiduciary registration.

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

Investment Costs for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and Other Firms

While it is great for investment managers to earn a high rate of return on the investment, some attention also needs to be given to the investment costs incurred in the process of earning those returns. Many wealth managers are so involved with the returns part, that they lose track of expenses like capital gains taxes, fund expense ratios, and other costs/fees. We have talked in-depth about investment costs in this guide on improving portfolio performance for investors with $5 million to $500 million in investible liquid assets.

Imagine that a wealth manager frequently trades in an attempt to beat the index. The strategy works out great if the manager can beat the index by a significant margin. But, you should know that in the long term, it is statistically observed that very few (rare geniuses like Warren Buffet) fund managers have been successful in “beating the market”. Most investment managers see their average annual returns hover close to the index average returns or sometimes even below the index returns. Many have tried to beat the market and failed at it through active investing. And by the way, significant costs get incurred in the process of active trading.

Now contrast that approach with a fund manager investing in a passive index fund that is low cost but a relatively low return as well. However, when such investments are made for a long duration, the costs can be significantly less than active investing. We are talking about paying long-term capital gains taxes instead of short-term, paying lower expense ratios, and saving on brokerage costs as well as other fees. For a portfolio worth a few million dollars, even a 1% savings in costs can add up to a significant number over a 10-15 year period.

Tips for Finding a Top Financial Advisor

You may have researched about wealth management. Reading some of the points in this guide will also add to your understanding of wealth management. However, if you are certain that you want to work with a wealth manager, then you would simply want to know how you can find a reputed and successful advisor. To help you out, we have decided to share some tips for finding a top financial advisor.

It is not very difficult to find well-known firms like Merrill Lynch wealth management. All you have to do is Google them and visit their website. There is information about the services they offer and the kind of clients that they work with. However, what is most important is to know the reason why you want to work with a wealth manager. For that, you need to ask yourself what you want out of the relationship between you and the wealth manager. Perhaps, it is to get guidance on specific areas of your life. Or maybe you just want a smart portfolio manager who can make all investment-related decisions for you. Put yourself in the right frame of mind for such introspection by skimming through this short guide on critical shifts needed to maximize portfolio performance for investors with $5 million to $500 million in liquid assets.

You can also lean on your personal network to find promising wealth managers. Ask your relatives and friends if they work with a wealth manager or know someone. The people you know will probably give you genuine reviews of wealth managers they know. We also highly recommend you to meet a shortlisted advisor one-on-one to know his/her personality. In fact, we suggest that you also call us just to explore what Pillar Wealth Management can do for you.

Hutch Ashoo and Christopher Snyder are the expert founders of independent, fee-only, and fiduciary wealth management firm Pillar Wealth Management. If you would like to speak with them or simply ask any questions about how custom and trusted wealth management advice is offered to highnet worth individuals with $5 million to $500 million in investible assets, then feel free to start a conversation.

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