Merrill Lynch's CEO is pushing the brokerage giant to replicate its overseas success in non-proprietary distribution channels inside the United States. The comments by Stanley O'Neal, chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch, were picked up Monday by Dow Jones.
O'Neal said that Merrill Lynch & Co. non-U.S. sales by Merrill Lynch are now weighted to individual investors rather than institutions. Merrill entered the European asset management market most aggressively when it purchased Mercury Asset Management in 1997. He also told the news service that he hopes to replicate the European retail sales in the United States by increasing sales through other brokerage firms.
"We should have better sales and we are working toward it," O'Neal told the news service. "We are getting the distribution part of the equation right," he said.
O'Neal also hinted that Merrill will not be selling its investment management business. There have been long-standing rumors inside the industry that the unit is being shopped, and earlier this year published reports named Legg Mason as one firm interested in the business.
However, O'Neal pointed to the high margins in Merrill's asset management business and its ability to diversify the brokerage's revenues as proof that it remains a key part of Merrill's core long-term strategy. Roughly 70 percent of Merrill's asset management products have better returns than industry averages, he said. The unit produced $1.2 billion of revenue in the first nine months and $331 million of pretax profit.
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