Merrill Lynch wealth management head John Thiel stepping down

Bank of America retirement head Andy Sieg will take over for him Jan. 1

Oct 6, 2016 @ 12:16 pm

By Greg Iacurci

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management is poised to take on new leadership at the beginning of next year as Andy Sieg, the head of Global Wealth and Retirement Solutions, takes over for current head John Thiel, the company announced Thursday.

Mr. Thiel, 56, has been head of Merrill Lynch's wealth management group since 2011. He is stepping down from his position effective Jan. 1.

Mr. Sieg, 49, has been in his current position for the past five years.

(Related read: Merrill Lynch's John Thiel urges colleagues to work with DOL on fiduciary rule)

Part of his responsibilities entail oversight of products and services for Bank of America's Global Wealth and Investment Management group, and as such, the company saw him as a “natural transition” into Mr. Thiel's role, a spokeswoman said.

“He's a great leader,” Mindy Diamond, president of Diamond Consultants Inc., a recruiting firm, said. “I think he knows what it means to be a financial adviser, so he'll absolutely demonstrate an ability to listen to advisers, raise morale and take the business to a good place.”

Mr. Sieg joined Merrill Lynch in 1992 as an analyst in the Global Wealth Management business, and held senior strategy and field leadership roles for 13 years. He rejoined the company in 2009, after serving a stint at Citigroup Global Wealth Management from 2005 to 2009 as head of the Emerging Affluent Client Segment.

A spokeswoman declined to say who will be taking over Mr. Sieg's current position, but said to expect an announcement in the coming weeks.

Mr. Thiel will hold a newly created role within Bank of America as vice chairman of Global Wealth and Investment Management after he steps down next year.

He will be serving as an adviser to the company in his new role as vice chairman of GWIM, on items such as implementation of goals-based wealth management strategy, public policy and regulatory matters, according to a Bank of America spokeswoman. She also stressed the step-down is not a demotion, but rather a voluntary move on the part of Mr. Thiel.

"Since 2011, under John Thiel's leadership, Merrill Lynch has made tremendous progress by developing and beginning to implement goals-based wealth management,” Terry Laughlin, Bank of America vice chairman and head of Global Wealth and Investment Management, said. “Recognizing that our strategy has been proven and is now being implemented, John came to me and indicated he was thinking about his future and his desire to connect to the other passions in his life.”

Mr. Thiel broke ranks with many in his industry and emerged as an early advocate of a Labor Department fiduciary rule on retirement advice. Rather than fighting the DOL, he told peers they should collaborate with regulators on the contentious regulation.

Mr. Thiel joined Merrill Lynch as a financial adviser in Tampa, Fla. in 1989. He became part of the Global Private Client Advisory Division leadership team in 1995, and joined the Private Banking and Investment Group in 2000. He became head of the Private Banking and Investment Group in 2006.

“I think most people like John. He was an adviser, a manager, and climbed through the ranks. He was a career Merrill Lyncher,” Bill Willis, president of Willis Consulting Inc., a recruiting firm, said. “I think that's always appreciated when a decision comes down, that the guy has at least walked a mile in my moccasins.”

While Mr. Willis said it's impossible to know the entirety of details surrounding a move such as Mr. Thiel's, be believes Bank of America's story about him stepping down voluntarily rings true.

“It sounds like he's doing it at his own pace here, as opposed to the firm saying, 'Your time is over,'” he said, adding that he may just be moving toward retirement after holding a demanding job for a period of time. “Maybe he wants to get out of the pressure cooker.”

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