“One of the most important professional relationships a client will have is with their financial advisor,” says Carole Wentz, branch manager overseeing Merrill Lynch’s St. Louis Metro Complex. As such, she says, it’s a decision not to take lightly. “They should choose someone they trust and are comfortable with. A trusting client-advisor relationship is key to success, and it’s so much more than just investment performance. They should really have someone who helps them identify and set their goals, and who works with them holistically.”
With almost 140 advisors in its seven area offices, most clients come to Merrill Lynch by referral through a trusted friend or family member, Wentz notes. “Not all advisors are created equal and not all firms are created equal, so take your time and do your due diligence to select someone who’s going to be a good fit for you and your family.” Things to look for include professional designations, which show the advisor’s commitment to providing the highest quality service and advice, as well as experience and the backing of a solid company. “Especially with everything that’s gone on in the last few years, look for a company with a longstanding history, and the know-how and trust to stand behind everything they do for their clients.”
When a client comes to Merrill Lynch, each advisor’s first priority is to get to know and understand that client—what is important to them, what their goals are, and what their investment personality is, Wentz says. “Our initial goal truly is to listen to clients to understand their goals and dreams, and our long-term goal is to be their partner for the long haul to make sure they accomplish those goals and dreams.” A major part of that lies in taking a holistic approach—looking at both clients’ assets and liabilities to maximize financial decisions. “It doesn’t do much good to perform well on the asset side, but have money going out the back door because they’re not making astute decisions on the liability side,” she notes.
Because each client’s priorities are different—from saving for retirement to providing for children’s education or purchasing a second home—each plan is as unique and individual as the client it serves. “In the ultra-high-net-worth segment, the strategies might look different from someone else because their goals are different,” Wentz says. “Often, ultra-high-net-worth clients have a goal of keeping and maximizing what they have, so the strategies are different from someone who is in the accumulation phase of their life.” The firm employs advisors well-versed in varied segments of the market, including those ultra-high-net-worth clients with assets of more than $10 million, which is served by the Private Banking and Investment Group; affluent families with assets ranging between $250,000 and $10 million; and corporate clients, which are served through cash management, lending and retirement planning services.
Beyond its commitment to clients, Merrill Lynch also invests in the communities it serves through its charitable efforts, Wentz notes. In partnership with the broader Bank of America organization, the company and its employees donated significant funds and time to St. Louis-area nonprofits in 2012. “One thing I’m proud of in the broader Bank of America organization is that we do a good job recognizing and supporting future growth opportunities,” Wentz says. “We try to support the growth and development of the community wherever we can.”
On the Cover:
Merrill Lynch serves the St. Louis area’s wealth management needs with some 150 advisors at its seven area locations. Pictured on the cover: Merrill Lynch’s Chesterfield office (top), 400 Chesterfield Center, Ste. 200, 636-537-4500, local.ml.com/chesterfield; Ladue office (center), 1630 S. Lindbergh Blvd., 997-2700, local.ml.com/ladue_mo; and Clayton office (bottom), 8235 Forsyth Blvd., Ste. 1500, 290-4900, local.ml.com/st_louis_mo.