Bank of America Merrill Lynch is the marketing name for the global banking and markets businesses of Bank of America Corp. Lending, derivatives, and other commercial banking activities are performed by Bank of America N.A. and other banking affiliates. Securities, financial advisory, and other investment-banking activities come under broker-dealers Banc of America Securities LLC and Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. and other affiliates.
Merrill is known for having one of the largest retail-broker forces in the world. In addition to retail brokerage, its range of products and services encompasses global corporate and investment banking services, including commercial lending, global high-yield debt, global equity and global M&A; wealth management; private banking; investment management; and risk management. It owns nearly 50% of publicly traded asset manager BlackRock Inc.
The former Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. negotiated its sale to BofA the same weekend that Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008. The marriage got off to a rocky start in early 2009 when CEO John Thain was forced out. BofA's handling of the deal has drawn heat from Washington lawmakers, and was among the factors leading to the ouster of chief executive Kenneth Lewis. Now Merrill is among the bank's most profitable units, and the tumult that resulted in an exodus of talent is considered largely in the past by many inside the bank.
Industry observers are watching to see how the merging of the commercial and investment bank cultures fares. BofA is expected to preserve Merrill's brokerage force, nicknamed "The Thundering Herd," widely viewed as the crown jewel of the acquisition. The bank is also expected to trim its capital-markets business and scale back Merrill's compensation, which has traditionally been more generous than its Charlotte, N.C.-based parent. As a result of this and other issues, several top executives have left Merrill in recent months. The company recently hired former Citigroup Inc. executive Sallie Krawcheck to run the bank's global wealth and investment management unit, overseeing Merrill's 15,000 brokers.