Merrill Lynch hires director of gerontology

Cynthia Hutchins takes on newly created role to help advisers deal with aging clients

Jan 23, 2014 @ 12:01 am

By Mary Beth Franklin

Financial gerontology — the study of the financial impacts of aging — has been around for decades, but a major financial services firm touting its own gerontologist could be downright revolutionary.

At least that's what Cynthia Hutchins, recently appointed director of gerontology for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, hopes.

“The idea of this role is to enlighten advisers on the various gerontological issues that are facing their baby boomer clients, such as longevity, elder care, legacy planning and how to incorporate family needs into their overall financial plan,” Ms. Hutchins said in an interview.

“When we think about financial advisers, it's usually all about the numbers: the charts, graphs and investment performance,” she said. “But when we talk to our clients, a lot of them feel their advisers don't understand their goals.”

A wealth manager and retirement specialist with Merrill Lynch for the past 15 years, Ms. Hutchins describes her recently created position as a cog in the corporate machine's new emphasis on goals-based planning for its 14,000-plus advisers.

“Look no further than the unprecedented demographic shift in this country and it's clear to see that the conversations between advisers and clients need to evolve,” David Tyrie, head of retirement and personal wealth solutions for Merrill Lynch, said in a statement Wednesday announcing Ms. Hutchins' appointment.

Health care is the No. 1 issue for retired and soon-to-be-retired clients, and yet it's one of the issues that financial advisers don't feel secure talking about, Ms. Hutchins said. “We need to help our advisers so they feel comfortable in having deeper conversations with their clients about these topics” as well as issues such as Social Security, Medicare and long-term care.

Longevity is another hot-button issue. Noting that her own grandmother died last year at 96 after spending more than 40 years in retirement, Ms. Hutchins said longevity is an issue that people are having trouble wrapping their arms around.

Ms. Hutchins said she'll be casting a wide net trying to raise awareness about aging-related issues, such as the impact of longevity on financial plans, by speaking at all the company's national and market-level meetings over the next year and publishing white papers on related topics.

“Cyndi's appointment to this unique role comes at an important time when people need access to a deeper level of expertise and guidance that can help them to and throughout retirement,” Mr. Tyrie said.

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