Bank of America Merrill Lynch to drop Merrill Lynch name from Investment Bank

GHDFS.MA's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 320

WSJ just reported that BofA is planning to change the marketing name of its investment banking unit "Bank of America Merrill Lynch" to only Bank of America (Securities) and reduce the wealth management operations' name to Merrill.

How will this affect the reputation of the bank and its ability to win clients and recruit young, often prestige-focused, college students?

I think this will radically reduce the appeal of the brand and will even further destroy the performance legacy of Merrill Lynch.

Comments (35)

Feb 25, 2019

0

Feb 25, 2019

Worse: BofA Securities

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Feb 25, 2019

I know. I remember that before Meissner revigorated the investment bank there were talks about dropping BofA because of its retail and US-centric associations.

Feb 25, 2019

Confirmed it's official. Received Email from CEO.

Feb 25, 2019

I'm interested to see what BAML (BofA Securities now, I guess) folks think of this.

Feb 25, 2019

Can't wait to see kids in 2 years time coming on WSO asking if BofA is a BB

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Funniest
Feb 26, 2019

BofA deez nuts are bulge brackets

Swinging Through

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Feb 28, 2019

Cue all the BOA retail bankers and investment advisors telling ugly girls at the bar that they are "investment bankers" lmao

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Mar 3, 2019

Lol @ the notion of any guy telling any girl that he's an investment banker in order to impress her.

Feb 25, 2019

Missed opportunity to call it Bank of America Capital and shorten to BAC like the stock ticker.

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Feb 25, 2019

BAS?

Feb 26, 2019

Bank of America Capital sounds like a PE firm or hedge fund...which BofA is not

Feb 26, 2019

And BarCap is what, now?

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Feb 26, 2019

Waiting for the thread from the kid asking if he's getting dinged cause he couldn't help himself at an interview and laughed when his interviewer asked, "What appeals to you about BofA?"

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Feb 26, 2019

If I worked at BofA I would ask kids that just to fuck with them

Swinging Through

Feb 26, 2019

Does anybody see any value in the rebranding? Maybe I fail to see the larger picture, and BAML has, in reality, struggled to translate their merged unit into a unified brand that clients can get behind. But why slash the significantly more reputable part of the name and replace it with what BofA's investment bank was called before the crisis like the entire merger and its ascent into the BB never happened. Is the move motivated by main street's distaste of the ML brand?
Why not slash the BofA instead? After all, its main contribution is the balance sheet, something that is hardly related to prestige in terms of getting clients.

Feb 26, 2019

The BAML brand originally include corporate banking / commercial banking / investment banking / business banking. The IB is now BofA securities, while corporate/ commercial/ business banking fall under BofA. The idea is to have just one BofA and have each line of business support each other as if it's one company. Trying to leverage the strength of each LOB to create more business opportunity. You will be surprised that when each LOB price their products / service, we look at other relationship as well.

Feb 26, 2019

Isn't the entire CIB now called BofA Securities? Regardless, why should the different lines of business work more closely together simply because their names are more similar? Why not focus on organizational integration (as has been done by Meissner) and still keep the prestige associated with ML brand?

Feb 28, 2019

Ya, its like McDonald's buying Smith & Wollensky and calling it Mcdonald's.

Feb 26, 2019

I understand the overall objective but it seems mishandled. If the point was to simplify things, why not just call everything BofA __. Instead of keeping Merrill for the Wealth portion + changing the name to a worse brand for IB. All in all, it doesn't seem well thought out.

Feb 26, 2019

Shouldn't make a huge difference. Citi and Barclays both do reasonably well despite the retail bank names.

BAML's ability to finance deals won't change and that is often how they win mandates, not based on the reputation of their advice.

For IB, MDs move bank and often take clients with them regardless of the respective banks' names so it's really down to the quality of MDs / teams.

Most Helpful
Feb 26, 2019

^^THIS^^

Names only change what you call something, it doesn't change the inner workings/the successes you've had/the quality people you currently have or will retain in the future.

Companies, in and out of banking change their names. It happens and often more than once in a company's history. Whether because of mergers [First Boston became CS First Boston became Credit Suisse, Manufacturers Trust became Manufacturers Hanover became Chemical Bank became Chase] or distancing from crises or scandals [Blackwater became Xe became Academi and Philip Morris became Altria] or a combination of reasons, sometimes to something catchier/trendier like when Burbn became Instagram or due to legal battles such as when WWF [World Wrestling Federation] became WWE due to World Worldlife's Fund's claim to the 3 letters WWF.

While BoA's just announcing this to the public, you can be certain this decision was probably percolating for well over a year or two, possibly longer. Names do change, but it's rarely done at a moment's notice or without lots of thought, board meetings, focus groups and discussions with your public relations people.

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Feb 26, 2019

@Rocky6 True. The BofA versus BAML prestige is all in the mind of recent college graduate that rather say they work at Bank of America Merrill Lynch versus BOA, because they are afraid that people will accidentally mistaken them as working in one of the branches. In reality, I think clients could care less about the name and more about the value it provides.

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Feb 27, 2019

exactly. No one cares besides undergrads looking to have a dick measuring contest with their roommate Chad over at JPM or with Chelsea who they met over drinks at Brother Jimmys

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Feb 26, 2019

Clients don't care but it's a prestige thing mostly (mainly at the analyst / early associate level..) Once you hit senior associate / VP+ your focus turns more to "where can I get higher comp" and "which platform do I have the highest chance of making MD" rather than prestige

For a branding standpoint, I personally feel that they would've been better off keeping their investment bank / wealth management branded as "Merrill Lynch" then keep all the retail / commercial / corporate bank as "Bank of America". Similar to how JPM differentiates between their "Chase" and "J.P. Morgan" branding, with great effectiveness

With that said as toolish as it sounds, I do think branding does have an implicit impact on people's psychology & how people relate to your firm, and it's not for a league tables thing. For example, both Citi / BAML are technically "stronger" in almost all products than CS in the Americas and yet CS has a branding (recruiting) advantage over them because of their "Swiss high finance" vs. retail bank association. In New York, telling someone you work at Barclays has a stronger cachet because US people associate Barclays with the investment bank whereas in London, when you tell people you work at Barclays, first assumption is that you open checking accounts & credit cards for a living. Not a big deal at the end of the day, but I do think worth noting

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Feb 26, 2019
10x Leveraged:

With that said as toolish as it sounds, I do think branding does have an implicit impact on people's psychology & how people relate to your firm, and it's not for a league tables thing. For example, both Citi / BAML are technically "stronger" in almost all products than CS in the Americas and yet CS has a branding (recruiting) advantage over them because of their "Swiss high finance" vs. retail bank association.

I don't think this is true anymore. I don't know a single person who went through associate recruiting that took CS over BAML or Citi, and could name at least 10 people who turned down CS in favor of BAML/Citi.

I'm not at either, so have no skin in the game either way.

Array

Feb 28, 2019

That's what I've seen too, I think BAML/C have a pretty clear recruiting advantage over CS. In practice, I don't think there is any meaningful branding penalty for co-existing with a retail franchise.

Feb 28, 2019

Sad times.. How the mighty have fallen. Thanks John Thain!

Feb 28, 2019

John Thain? You mean Stan O'Neal, right? (Or did you read / live through some parallel universe version of Merrill's fire sale?) WTF else could Thain have done?

The person who deserves real thanks is the titanically stupid Ken Lewis. Paid $30 / share for equity that was worthless and had no buyers. Then graciously declined to invoke the most open and shut MAE in the history of mergers...

Feb 28, 2019
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Mar 4, 2019