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Merrill fills empty manager seats by promoting insiders

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Merrill Lynch turned inward to fill two empty management positions.

Nik Totaro and Deborah Shepherd take on their new leadership roles at a time when Merrill Lynch has cut back on recruiting efforts, upped its technology investments and put in place new incentives for its existing 14,000 advisors.

Totaro will serve as market executive for Merrill's operations in Stamford, Connecticut, according to an internal company memo seen by On Wall Street. Market executives are the firm's equivalent of complex managers, overseeing large numbers of financial advisors.

Totaro will oversee 157 advisors. He replaces Katie Flaherty who left the firm in June, a spokeswoman has confirmed. Flaherty has not yet registered with a new firm, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records, and she did not respond to a request for comment.

Totaro has been with Merrill Lynch since 2008, most recently serving as an executive in the firm's North Shore market on Long Island, overseeing two branches in Great Neck and Bayside, New York, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Prior to Merrill Lynch, Totaro previously worked at Citigroup and Prudential.

Shepherd will take the helm for Merrill Lynch's market in Short Hills, New Jersey, according to another company memo seen by On Wall Street. She will oversee 144 advisors.

She replaces Jim Hughes, who recently left company. He has not registered with a new firm and did not respond to a request for comment on his departure.

Shepherd is a longtime veteran of the firm, having begun her career with the company in 1990 as a financial consultant in Shreveport, Louisiana. She later moved into management, serving as director of the Central Arkansas complex in Little Rock, Arkansas. Most recently, she oversaw the firm's operations in Princeton.

Shepherd is also a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.

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