Yesterday, John Thiel, who initially joined Merrill Lynch as a financial advisor in 1989 soon after graduating from Florida State, was named head of the bank's U.S. Wealth Management unit. This means that, starting Monday, the 50-year-old Thiel will oversee Merrill's 15,500 brokers (often referred to as the "Thundering Herd") and a business that brings in annual revenues of $13 billion.
Thiel was appointed to his new post by Sallie Krawcheck, president of Bank of America's global wealth and investment management unit (and perhaps the most prominent woman on Wall Street). Krawcheck, a relative newcomer to the BofA Merrill fold, having been hired from Citigroup in 2009, had been looking both internally and externally for a successor to outgoing brokerage chief Lyle LaMothe (who's retiring to pursue "personal interests"). And, likely, her choice of the insider Thiel had more than a little to do with the scores of complaints hurled at Bank of America management by the Merrill brokerage staff in the wake of the 2009 acquisition.
After BofA picked up Merrill Lynch, many Merrill brokers (who didn't jump ship or retire) started to grumble over the increased rules and regulations imposed upon them by their new parent, not hiding their belief that BofA management was stepping on toes and policing areas that they shouldn't. As a result, relations between the Herd (perhaps the most important piece, profit-wise, to the BofA empire) and BofA management became strained.
And so, the tapping of Thiel should smooth things over: no doubt the Thundering Herd will be happy to have one of their one leading the way.
In addition, the hiring of the Merrill-bred Thiel underscores the very good possibility that in today's career climate, in which it's often thought that lateral moves are the only way to the top, you can still work your way to the C-suite by digging in deep with one firm.
(WSJ: Merrill Brokers Cheer as John Thiel Ascends)
(Related: Merrill Lynch Looking For Wealth Managers -- And Wealthy Portfolios to Manage)
(Related: BofA Chairman Chad Holliday Speaks at Vault's CSR Conference)