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Merrill Lynch cuts divisions in executive shakeup

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Merrill Lynch is making a number of changes to its leadership structure, cutting the number of divisions and promoting some junior executives, according to a memo seen by On Wall Street.

Andy Sieg, head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, announced the changes to advisers on Wednesday.

It is another sign of how Sieg, who assumed leadership of the wirehouse earlier this year, is putting his mark on Merrill Lynch.

Sieg said in a memo that he's met with more than 3,000 advisers, and that he discerned two themes from those conversations, which help explain the changes.

"First, everyone agreed that growth is an energizing proposition. It creates momentum, elevates performance and in the end leads to a better client experience," he said. "Second, your most common concern is capacity ― or, more accurately, the loss of it. How can we free up time and energy better spent on client acquisition or in the quality service of clients?"

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The company slashed the number of divisions to six from 10 in order to help make Merrill Lynch "feel like a smaller, more tightly integrated firm," Sieg said.

In total, six division executives have left the company or moved into new roles.

Don Plaus will lead Merrill Lynch's elite Private Banking & Investment Group, which caters to wealthy clients. Plaus replaces Phil Sieg, brother to Andy Sieg, who recently announced his retirement. He'll also oversee the firm's international business, per the memo. Fellow executive Ben Prince has taken on a leadership role in developing a strategy focused on community markets, which are served by 150 smaller offices.

"We want to better understand the markets these offices serve and ensure they are appropriately staffed and supported. We expect to see the results of the strategy efforts this summer," Sieg said.

Division executives Jeffrey Tucker and Tom Fickinger will transition to other, unspecified opportunities at Merrill Lynch, per the memo. Linda Houston is retiring and Jim Dickson left to pursue other opportunities, according to Sieg.

Sieg also said the wirehouse was forming a Market Executive Strategy Council to solicit feedback and ideas from the managers overseeing the firm’s branches and complexes, which Merrill also calls markets.

Merrill additionally has a new chief operating officer: Mike Adornetto, who rejoins the wealth management unit after serving in other positions at Bank of America. Sieg said Adornetto would oversee the firm's 6,500 client associates as well as the firm's FA desktop and online and mobile strategies.

"Mike’s spent most of his career on process improvement and service quality," Sieg said. "Job One for Mikeassess how our FA’s and CA’s spend their day. This will be invaluable to us as we help them direct more of their effort into client service and acquisition."

Merrill Lynch promoted Hong Ogle to head of adviser development. Ogle previously served as market executive for Houston.

The company tapped Kristin Hill, a 20-year Merrill veteran, to be strategic performance executive, a new role. Hill will oversee functions such as FA compensation, field communications and recognition clubs.

Sieg said near the end of his memo that the company would announce additional leadership changes in the coming days.

"I’m as excited today about the future as when I joined the firm 25 years ago. We were strong then and on the move," he said. "Today, as part of Bank of America, we’re even stronger and we’re on the move again."

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