Merrill Lynch Advisor Review
Merrill Lynch offers wealth management and investment advisory for various types of clients. Learn more about the firm and its services in this guide.
Merrill Lynch is a subsidiary of Bank of America that offers investment and wealth management services. The company is a registered investment advisor firm and a broker-dealer under the name, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. J.D. Power’s Investor Satisfaction Study ranks the firm in seventh place with a score of 725 out of 1,000, just below the national average.
As mentioned, Merrill Lynch’s flagship services are wealth management and investment advisory. This guide will outline the firm’s various services, as well as the account minimums and fees you can expect with each. We’ll also break other key company information, such as its disclosures, how to get started, and points of contact.
Assets Under Management
Number of Employees
January 6, 1914
Brian Moynihan (Bank of America)
250 Vesey Street, New York City, New York, United States
Types of Clients Merrill Lynch Serves
Unlike some other firms, Merrill Lynch’s services cater to people of all wealth ranges, whether they’re beginners, affluent individuals, or even celebrities. The firm allows you to open up a self-directed account with no minimum. However, if you’d like to work directly with a professional, you’re going to need front at least $1,000. Below are the account minimums you can expect:
|Account Type||Minimum Investment|
|Guided Investing with an advisor||$20,000|
Unfortunately, if you can’t meet the initial investment requirements, you won’t be able to work with an advisor. You’ll also need to cover annual fees, as well as any costs associated with securities you buy. Later in this guide, we’ll break down how Merrill Lynch’s fee structure works.
Financial Advisor Services Merrill Lynch Offers
Merrill Lynch has three tiers that give you access to a financial advisor. The first two, Guided Investing with or without a dedicated advisor, allow you to open an account and receive investment management services. Its wealth management offering affords you an entire team, plus a dedicated expert to ensure you reach your goals.
Below, we provide a more in-depth look at each tier:
With a $1,000 minimum deposit, you’ll be able to open up an account and receive investment management services from Merrill Lynch professionals. Namely, they’ll work to construct a portfolio on your behalf. Afterward, the firm will consistently monitor and rebalance it to ensure it maintains a balance between risk and reward.
Guiding Investing with an Advisor
After investing $20,000 initially, Merrill Lynch will dedicate a financial advisor, as well as offer a team of experts to build, monitor, and rebalance your portfolio. This tier offers you a bit more personalization in terms of how you invest. Your expert will work directly with you to establish a strategy that the firm will then put into action.
Merrill Lynch also offers wealth management services if you have $250,000 or more to manage. This affords you the same benefits as the previous two tiers, except you will have a wider range of securities you can invest in, such as mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, options, and bonds. You’ll also have a dedicated team of advisors rather than just one. They’ll be able to work with you to develop an effective strategy for preserving and growing your wealth.
The firm also offers a specialized wealth management service for sports and entertainment figures. Such attention brings unique issues that often require creative solutions. If you fit into this client category, Merrill Lynch’s advisors will work by your side to build a custom strategy to help you attain your goals.
Merrill Lynch charges clients an annual fee which is based on a percentage of assets under management (AUM). However, each tier comes with varying fee percentages. Below is a table listing the percentages associated with each service:
|Account Type||Fee Percentage|
|Guided Investing with an advisor||0.85%|
Keep in mind that, on top of your annual advisory fee, you’ll be responsible for paying for costs related to securities you invest in. Some, such as mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs), require you to pay for fund management or per transaction. Unfortunately, even if a professional buys these on your behalf, you’ll be on the hook to pay for them.
Merrill Lynch’s Investment Philosophy
Merrill Lynch doesn’t indicate that its advisors follow one overarching investment philosophy or strategy. Rather, the firm claims that the approach a professional (or a team of them) takes is personalized based on each client’s needs and goals. However, you can expect an effort to construct a portfolio using core risk management techniques, such as asset allocation, diversification, and rebalancing.
As an RIA and broker, Merrill Lynch must report any regulatory events as disclosures on its Form ADV. Per FINRA’s BrokerCheck, the firm has had 1,474 disclosures since 1959. 595 of these are regulatory actions, which refer to any legal proceedings involving the company and its representatives. In the past ten years, the company or one of its representatives has been charged with a felony.
The number of disclosures can be a bit concerning if you’re a prospective client; however, it doesn’t always mean a company is bad or untrustworthy. It’s just a detail you should be aware of. What’s also important is the quality of the advisor. So, once you know who your Merrill Lynch expert is, be sure to look them up on BrokerCheck or the SEC’s Investment Adviser Search.
Merrill Lynch has a few different points of contact, depending on what you need assistance with. If you need to reach your financial advisor, the firm recommends you get in touch with them directly, which you can achieve by searching for them by name or via their location. Otherwise, you can contact the company directly by:
- Calling (800) 637-7455, 9am-9pm EST for general inquiries (or (866) 657-3323 for the hearing impaired)
- Calling (866) 820-1492 to discuss opening a retirement or equity rewards account
How to Get Started with Merrill Lynch
To start working with a Merrill Lynch advisor, you can either contact one directly or visit the firm’s website and ask for one to reach out to you. Alternatively, you can use Merrill Advisor Match, a tool the company uses to connect potential clients with the right products and experts. It’ll require you to answer a few questions about your finances, and then it’ll connect you with a professional that fits your needs.
Tips for Choosing a Financial Advisor Firm
The firm you choose to work with is a critical decision. Often, you’ll end up working with an advisor for several years as you build your portfolio and plan for the future. It’s key you pick a company and professional that’s of high quality and has the appropriate expertise to help you. You can verify a firm’s or individual’s credentials using FINRA’s BrokerCheck and the SEC’s Investment Advisor Search.
Another aspect of a firm you should consider is its account minimums. If its requirements are steep, it’ll rule out your ability to hire one of its advisors. You should also be wary of how much a company’s services cost. Fees can add up, especially if it’s based on a percentage of your AUM.
If you need help finding a quality advisor near you, you should use a free matching tool, like this one. After filling out a short quiz, you’ll be able to connect with up to three vetted professionals near you.
The information in this review is based on publicly available information directly from Merrill Lynch’s website, the SEC, and FINRA. Neither the firm nor its representatives have any say on what we’ve included on this page.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much is an initial consultation with a Merrill Lynch advisor?
An initial consultation with one of Merrill Lynch’s advisors is free of charge. However, future visits will cost you a regular advisory fee.
Does Merrill Lynch have high fees?
Merrill Lynch’s fees are on par with other financial advisor firms. Of course, how much you pay depends on two factors — the service you choose and the assets you have under management. The first two tiers, Guided Investing with and without an advisor, charge 0.85% and 0.45% respectively. Fidelity, which offers a similar service, charges 1.10% of AUM. So, by comparison, Merrill Lynch comes out on the low end.
How much money do you need to have a Merrill Lynch account?
This depends on the account you choose. You don’t need to invest any initial amount to open a self-directed account. However, if you want to work with an advisor you’ll need:
- $1,000 for Guided Investing
- $20,000 for Guided Investing with an advisor
- $250,000 for Wealth Management
Is Merrill Lynch a fiduciary?
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