Monday, September 15, 2008

Another tired man lays down his hand.

“It's sad to see another tired man lay down his hand and quit the holy game of poker... Third Generation Company, you think they would have shown more grit."
(Thomas Crown Affair, 1999)

I was sad to read that my former employer Merrill Lynch has agreed to sell itself to Bank of America. Apparently it has become just one more wounded item on the auction block.

For many years Merrill stood alone among brokerage houses as not having been merged or acquired, but proudly independent; all that has changed, now it will become but a cog in the machinery of Bank of America.

I think things started going wrong when the investment bankers took over. For many years the CEO of Merrill had always been a stockbroker who had come up through the ranks. The most notable one was Don Regan. “Bringing Wall Street to Main Street,” was the corporate motto and mission.

When the investment bankers took over in the mid-1990s, the company lost its focus and the retail arm suffered (it's called the private client investment group). Merrill management became more interested in making a quick buck off large commercial transactions in New York, as opposed to serving its retail clients.

One of my first jobs out of the military was as a broker at Merrill Lynch and I had some good years there. Their training programs and the people were exceptional. I have many fond memories of my time there. I had always hoped that Merrill would re-find itself and return to its core values.

For those reasons, I was sad to see my old company is no more.

"You've got to give loyalty down, if you want loyalty up."
-Don Regan


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