Memos have been flying around Merrill Lynch about ways to get the Thundering Herd to court higher-quality clients and stop simply gathering the assets.
Dow Jones got its hands on one proposal that would pay Merrill advisors a bonus if they trim their books to no more than 150 families, most of which have $250,000 or more to invest -- the firm's target for "affluent" investors.
A full 35% of the money has to be in fee-based accounts and yes, cross-selling into advisory and banking products would be rewarded.
Finally to be eligible for the bonus, Merrill advisors need to get their client retention numbers up to 98% or above.
Additional incentives are available for advisors who get professional certifications or shift to a team-driven approach.
It's not clear whether Merrill hopes the smaller accounts will be shifted to Merrill Edge, which is explicitly designed to work with clients with under $250,000.
Merrill advisors currently work with about $98 million apiece on average.
That means that in order for the high-net-worth "enhanced" grid to kick in and make sense, they've got to make sure that each of their no more than 150 client households actually has at least $650,000 invested in the firm.
The typical Merrill advisor who simply followed all the rules and courted the maximum number of clients with the minimum $250,000 to invest would actually have to surrender $60 million in AUM and 2/3 of his or her production.
Surely Merrill doesn't want that.