Are Advest Reps Hitting the Street?
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Monday, November 21, 2005

Are Advest Reps Hitting the Street?

Buying distribution for ones own funds may not be so easy after all. Merrill Lynch is reportedly learning the hard way that bought brokers may not be contented brokers. It appears, according to the Boston Herald, that many of Advest's reps are planning to jump ship rather than stay on once Merrill takes over the broker-dealer next month.

For those not keeping score at home, Merrill purchased the Hartford-based broker-dealer from Axa (the French financial services conglomerate) last year for $400 million. Axa itself purchased Advest from Mutual of New York.

It could be that as many as half of the 515-member Advest broker force are shopping their services, according to the Herald. However, the paper admits that the figure is a best guess and that its unnamed sources are speculating -- "perhaps wildly."

Raiding the reps are a number of regional and emerging national broker-dealers with more open shops, including RBC Dain Rauscher, Janney Montgomery Scott and Raymond James, if the Herald is to be believed.

One of the factors causing the reps to look, the paper adds, is the brokers' fear (based on the words of Bob McCann) that Merrill will "encourage" reps to offer Merrill Lynch mutual funds to clients. Since the Merrill funds are already available through Advest, the reps may fear the implications of this encouragement for their clients’ portfolios.

The bottom line is that the situation is an interesting one that may not guaranty Merrill the uptick in fund sales it hopes for, or as the Herald phrases the it -- Merrill CEO Stanley O'Neill is "has a shipload of tea floating in Boston Harbor and edgy redcoats approaching a wooden bridge."

We will see if there is a "shot heard around the world."

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