Speaking at a “townhall meeting” in Hong Kong yesterday, Dan Sontag told Merrill Lynch employees that he isn’t leaving the firm. The head of the firm’s brokerage business was trying to calm jitters stirred up when rumours began circulating that Bank of America was planning on ousting Sontag.
Earlier this week, we broke the news that there were plans inside Bank of America to re-arrange the management of Merrill’s financial advisory business and shift the way compensation is paid to brokers. Merrill strongly denied the story.
We haven’t been able to learn if Sontag addressed the compensation changes we reported. Those changes would make the financial advisers salaried employees who would receive periodic bonuses. Now they are paid by accumulating so-called “production credits” by selling clients Merrill products.
Sontag is described as sounding confident. At this point, it’s not clear if the plans to oust Sontag have been thwarted or if Sontag is simply out of touch with the Bank of America executives behind the plans.
Sontag was tapped to run the brokerage business after the surprise announcement in January that Bob McCann would leave the office. Sontag had been a long time veteran of Merrill, working for years under McCann. Some inside the firm say that elevating Sontag was an attempt to placate brokers in the wake of the merger with Bank of America.