Marketing Essay

1720 WordsApr 26, 20127 Pages
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/14/your-money/financial-advice-for-those-with-hummingbird-nest-eggs.html?pagewanted=1&ref=planning Financial Advice for Those With Small Nest Eggs By RON LIEBER Published: January 13, 2012 When Merrill Lynch recently discouraged its thundering herd of brokers from taking on new clients with under $250,000 in assets available for investing, it wasn’t a big surprise. Brokerage firms have been making these sorts of moves for years, and Merrill is notorious for a leaked memo in the late 1990s that discouraged “charity work” for clients with less than $100,000 in assets — “poor people,” as the memo put it. That patrician view is probably a minority one: if the people who run Merrill Lynch felt that way, they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing now, which is trying like mad to figure out a way to service those smaller accounts profitably. But Merrill’s decision to tell its brokers that they might not get paid if they persisted in working with such people reflects one of the sorriest truths of the financial services industry: Nobody has figured out a way to consistently give large numbers of people reasonably priced financial advice across all areas of their life and to do so in an ethical manner. The case of Merrill — and its effective opposite, a start-up called LearnVest — is instructive in part because it reflects how the world of managing money has changed since Merrill Lynch first started hanging shingles on Main Streets all over the United States. Charles E. Merrill & Company opened for business nearly 100 years ago, and the company (along with Merrill’s current owner Bank of America, interestingly enough), resolved to serve Main Street, not Wall Street. Charlie Merrill put it this way, according to the 1994 book by my colleague Joe Nocera, “A Piece of the Action.” In it, he quotes Mr. Merrill as writing the

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