Opportunities are certain to be abundant for Sallie Krawcheck, the former president of global wealth and investment management at Bank of America Merrill Lynch who was shown the door in a Tuesday evening management shakeup.
For one, she has a strong presence in New York, the heart of the world’s financial services industry. Krawcheck stayed there although Bank of America is headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., according to industry watchers.
“Someone will pick her up, and ultimately she might be better off for it,” Bert Ely, an independent bank consultant based in Alexandria, Va., said in a telephone interview Wednesday. It would not be surprising if Krawcheck was courted by the likes of JPMorgan Chase, he added.
If Krawcheck does not want to go to another bank, there are plenty of entrepreneurial models for her to emulate including, perhaps, advisory groups like Cetera and Chicago-based HighTower, Scott Smith, associate director of intermediary practices at Boston-based Cerulli Associates said in a telephone conversation.
As for the advisors left behind in the management shakeup, Krawcheck’s departure is not likely to trigger a major exodus, William Willis, president and chief executive officer of Willis Consulting, Inc., said in a telephone interview.
Although the short-term impact of her departure us still unclear, the wealth management group might find itself pressed to do more cross-selling of the parent bank’s products, Smith said.
Krawcheck did not pressure advisors to cross-sell the commercial bank’s products and did not want to risk investor relationships by putting the bank’s strategic goals over that of the clients, he said.
“That might have been one of the contributing factors here,” Smith said.
Another factor that might have worked against Krawcheck, Ely said, is that the bank’s management seems to be discussing a change in its compensation structure that would give advisors a salary and bonuses.
“I believe…that she preferred to leave it as salary plus commission,” Ely said. “There are others pushing for a change away from so much emphasis on the production-and-commission setup now in place.”
And yet, the existing financial advisory force is not likely to take her departure as a terrible blow. Within the industry and her own firm, Krawcheck had a reputation as a polarizing figure.
“She is not a deep-rooted Merrill Lynch-er,” Willis said. “She came from the competition two years ago, and now she’s gone.”
Advisors at Merrill never felt that Krawcheck was a true advocate for them, according to Mindy Diamond, president and chief executive officer of Diamond Consultants.
“My phone started ringing at 6 p.m. last night,” said Diamond, noting that 25 Merrill Lynch advisors contacted her in a 20-hour period. “Advisors don’t feel mournful about losing Sallie.”
“She was inaccessible,” she added.
But Diamond said her departure is likely a clear indicator as to where BofA and its Merrill Lynch unit is heading and the cultural factors at play in her ouster.
Bank of America’s (NYSE: BAC) stock price has taken a recent beating, off more than 44% year-to-date. The change in culture that has made the wealth management unit a more bank-oriented environment is raising concerns, Diamond said.
And replacing Krawcheck with David Darnell is more evidence that the prevailing BofA culture has won out.
“Darnell is being put in place to shake things up,” Diamond said. And he is a longtime BofA veteran, who, according to at least one media report, said he supports the idea of changing the compensation structure to salary plus bonus.
That, Diamond said, “is the advisors’ biggest terror.” Were such a compensation to be implemented, “it would be a mass exodus,” Diamond said.
“There are two things that motivate to accelerate [advisor movement betweenfirms], Diamond said. “One, is the ability to serve clients freely and second is messing with advisor comp.”
“Even if it is lowering payout, there will be a mass exodus because [Merrill] advisors are at the end of their rope,” she said. “They have no faith or trust in BofA management. They don’t trust what Moynihan is saying. They don’t know where to get their comfort.”
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney will likely be the biggest winner in the aftermath, Diamond said.
“It is institutionally owned and has not changed direction,” she said. “There is a ‘commitment to brokerage,’ plus it has rolled out new technology.”
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