'm currently with Merrill Lynch in Carmel and have been a client barely a month and am very unhappy with the overall service and advice I have received.
I am retired. My financial advisor had to call an outside CPA to find out the maximum I might withdraw from my IRA per year without incurring any tax liability because Merrill Lynch does not deal with tax liabilities, my financial advisor citing federal regulations as the reason for this limitation. How can an institution give advice to a retiree and oversee his account without being concerned about taxes? He also told me that the $15,000 figure he received from the CPA is only an estimate or guess. He claims he has no better knowledge as to how to answer my concern.
Because my advisor is in Carmel, he doesn't come into the city very often, though he promised me when I signed on with him that he comes into the city at least 2-3 times a week. My financial advisor arranged with my annuity company to surrender an annuity and to receive a check for $24,000, but the check came to my address and not to Merrill Lynch. Instead of being able to turn the check over to my advisor in person, I had to wait three days for my financial advisor to send me a self-addressed envelope and then wait another four days before Merrill Lynch could deposit the check -- this after learning my account had lost more than $3,000 in a single day and right after I had signed on with Merrill Lynch.
Finally, a snafu developed between Merrill Lynch and me when it reproved me for sending my account number to my new advisor (through a screenshot of my portfolio) using my personal email when I questioned him as to why my account had suddenly lost more than $3,000 just moments after my portfolio had officially installed online.
That same email later caused the Administrative Manager at Merrill Lynch to write me a letter saying she was investigating that email and while the investigation was ongoing, please contact her with any questions, which I did - twice -- and was unable to reach this woman at all. Her voicemail indicated she would call me back, but she never did. (And my financial advisor never gave me a complete explanation for my losses. The downturn happened, okay, but why did my account portfolio profile at ML state I lost only $831 when, in fact, it lost thousands? No answer. I think it was to make Merrill Lynch's efforts at monitoring my account look better -- cosmetic. He merely told me my email to him contained "key words," like the NSA monitoring terrorists online and in emails, which triggered an investigation, never stating which words in my brief email were the trigger or "key words.")
Later, I found out this woman, the Administrative Manager, was on vacation and there was no one else I might speak with at Merrill Lynch. In her letter to me, she wrote, "At Merrill Lynch, we strive to create an optimal experience for every client." Really? Why couldn't she have placed on the outgoing voicemail recording news of her absence and/or an alternative number for clients and customers to call as a customer service courtesy since she knew she wouldn't be available to answer the phone while on vacation? Oh, that would require this bureaucratic administrator to be the words she wrote in my letter and behaving other than a hypocrite toward the client. Ain't gonna happen.
These are just some highlights of my discontent with Merrill Lynch.
I only recently learned about fiduciaries and fiduciary duty, which may or may not be helpful to a potential client. At first, I thought it was necessary to have a fiduciary, but fiduciary duty can also be interpreted so loosely... Well, I guess the benefit of last resort is that you legally can sue the individual or company who is a fiduciary if there's a major financial screw-up, but having a fiduciary duty doesn't necessarily mean a client won't lose money, even lots of it.
My financial advisor says Merrill Lynch is a fiduciary, but I lost $3,000 right out of the gate, and my financial advisor's response was, "Well, it was a 5-day downturn in the market; there's nothing that could have been done." And so fiduciary duty can mean that the financial advisor simply monitors your portfolio as it declines in value. Right? What a benefit!
I had talked with my financial advisor for a whole month about my risk tolerance -- or lack of it -- and yet my pension monies were put into a portfolio that contained more risk than I knew existed. Once I confronted him about the situation, he blamed me for not understanding what was the true nature of my portfolio. His response was a testament to how poorly he had been listening to me all along.