The corporate parent of Merrill Lynch had previously promised that wealth management was protected from layoffs or other significant cost-cutting measures. No more.
Wealth management is officially on the list of units CEO Brian Moynihan is reviewing for an additional $3 billion in "efficiencies."
So are investment banking and the trading operation.
Decisions are due by the end of April, but in the meantime, Merrill staff are liable to be distracted and even more than a little scared.
Nobody likes knowing jobs they once thought were secure are on the line, much less working under those circumstances for several months.
And low-performing Merrill reps themselves have no idea whether they're at risk here. This may give them added incentive to make their escape plans -- if they haven't spent their entire retention bonus, of course.
Many of the wirehouses and money center banks are already under this kind of morale pressure. Morgan Stanley has cut jobs. Citi has deferred compensation packages.
So far, none has started actively firing brokers, who generate a lot of revenue and profit. If that happens, hang on.