As Bank of America Merrill Lynch moves to strengthen its overall focus on institutional clients, it has renamed its Institutional Consulting Group and hired a new advisor team working with more than $2.7 billion in client assets.
The new direction for the institutional business, now named Global Institutional Consulting, was announced in an internal memo sent to employees by Managing Director and Global Institutional Consulting Head Thomas McAuliffe on Monday.
The news comes on the heels of multiple changes to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s leadership and strategy in recent months, most recently with the creation of a new global wealth and retirement solutions organization announced by Andrew Sieg, who heads that unit, on Sept. 23.
“We’re clearly looking to grow our advisor focus with institutional clients across the board,” McAuliffe said in an interview on Monday, citing the changes previously announced by Sieg.
McAuliffe joined Bank of America Merrill Lynch in April after Sieg wooed him to the firm from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, where he was a director of the firm’s investment consulting group, Graystone Consulting. Prior to that, McAuliffe also served as director of institutional consulting at UBS.
The new name change to Global Institutional Consulting better reflects the global institutional products and services that clients now expect, McAuliffe said, including international research and resources.
Global Institutional Consulting has also hired a new advisor team from Convergent Wealth Advisors as it looks to expand its advisor force. The team is led by George Dunn, who was previously responsible for helping Convergent build its institutional-focused practice. Before that, Dunn worked in the institutional consulting practice at Smith Barney.
Joining Dunn in the move to Bank of America Merrill Lynch from Convergent are senior advisors Peter Dunne and Bruce Wall as well as their analyst and operational support team including Jeff Santos, Winship Ross, Doug Smith and Mark Randall.
The team, which handled more than $2.7 billion in predominantly institutional client assets, represents the kind of institutionally-focused advisors that McAuliffe plans to recruit to the Global Institutional Consulting business, he said.
Including that team, Global Institutional Consulting now has 70 advisors total, which McAuliffe plans to bring to 75 by year end. Global Institutional Consulting’s advisors currently manage more than $60 billion in assets for clients including endowments, foundations, pensions and other institutional retirement plans.
New advisor additions to the business could come from inside or outside the firm, individually or within teams, McAuliffe said. The one thing they will have in common is depth of experience working with institutional clients and a breadth of their client books.
Global Institutional Consulting also plans to better structure its business so that advisors can bring the right services to clients, McAuliffe said. That means aligning research focusing on areas including alternative investments, portfolio construction, and specialists focusing on areas including defined benefit pension and retirement, philanthropy and nonprofits.
Those plans come as McAuliffe said he sees the business moving towards CIO outsourcing, as more clients move toward a discretionary outsourced relationship with advisors. That can allow for faster tactical decisions to adjust to the markets, he said, as well as a greater depth of resources behind those decisions.
“It’s leveraging organizations like ours that have deeper resources of folks who have done this everyday versus an investment committee that’s meeting quarterly or monthly,” McAuliffe said.