Helping a Financial Services Team Work Better Together

McChrystal Group partnered with Merrill Lynch to bring the organization together following an acquisition. With a focus on clarifying the strategy and then providing leaders with the training needed to achieve that strategy, Merrill Lynch was able to capture new clients and reach their targets.

Why this industry/problem set is relevant in the world today:

In the face of a recent acquisition as well as increased market competition, Merrill Lynch’s wealth management division needed help scaling its business and finserv portfolio. It was also contending with a new, self-imposed regulatory model that required its people to adapt to new working rhythms.

To effectively compete, Merrill Lynch needed to evolve mindsets and ways of working – and this meant we first needed to understand the structural and behavioral barriers inhibiting growth.


To identify the challenges being faced by Merrill Lynch’s wealth management division, we began our engagement with our proprietary organizational diagnostic. Using survey data, interviews and on-site observations, McChrystal Group was able to identify the following:

The company’s regional Market Executives had been sidelined – and they felt it.

Since the acquisition, decision-making power had been centralized away from Market Executives. This shift relegated their role to an administrative one – which had a major impact on morale and on the company’s broader growth. Meanwhile, Market Executives were supposed to be free to chase and win new business and, importantly, to create connection points between the company and its 150,000 geographically decentralized financial advisors. Without a resolution, this disconnect could lead to the company’s quick demise.

Teams expressed a lack of trust between larger enterprise teams.

People were culturally and operationally misaligned with the larger organization following the acquisition. This gravely impacted everyone’s willingness to collaborate, which again had major implications on the business’s success.

A new regulatory model hindered resource allocation and decision-making.

People felt that the new regulation inhibited their ability to prioritize company growth.


  • Developed a strategy alignment framework that helped teams to act upon a shared vision. This new vision allowed Market Executives to think and act like ‘regional CEOs’ that could help grow the company’s business at the regional level.
  • Designed a leadership development program that helped cultivate the company’s talent and empower teams to execute on the strategy alignment framework. This program included working sessions and presentation workshops to help Market Executives win buy-in when presenting market management plans. Equally as important, we coached attendees on how to effectively translate strategy frameworks for people in their sales regions. Lastly, we led team mapping exercises to map out their own peer networks to identify existing communications and information gaps.
    We also designed and implemented a series of intensive training for 105 market leaders and key enterprise partners to accelerate change in a consistent manner across geographies. This targeted training focused on the behaviors required of market leaders, including: communicating effectively and intentionally, coaching to lead high performing teams through change, and building strategic networks across lines of business.
  • Set-up a network of cross-regional team members. The network consisted of those team members who were allowed to make decisions for the people in their respective offices. These people were selected to act as communication liaisons for the peers across the entire enterprise. This ensured that everyone was acting from the same place and with the same knowledge.
  • Provided leadership coaching. One-on-one coaching at the executive level sought to breed greater transparency, empowerment, and collaboration among senior leaders and their teams.


The team became more productive.

Our leadership training and alignment framework drove dramatic client growth for the company. By 2018 its Financial Advisors owned an average of 4.6 client relationships each, up from 2 relationships each in 2016.
Tenured advisors also had the support they needed to stretch to a new client acquisition rate of 142%.

The team’s morale was improved.

Financial Advisor attrition was at its lowest rate for over a decade.

The team was empowered to drive revenue growth.

An increase in quarterly revenues enabled the firm’s highest full-year revenue in its history, while the top four competitors reported steep declines in their revenues that same quarter.
Merrill Lynch saw a 43% year-over-year increase in profits and 43% increase in quarterly net income immediately following our engagement.
Five hundred of the company’s Advisors hit their respective $1m and $5m goals for the time ever.

Our Team

Brendan LearyPartner

Brendan Leary is a Partner at McChrystal Group, where he works as part of our Implementation Team. Brendan has supported companies in several industries including Financial Services, Mineral Extraction, and telecommunications.

Ryan FlynnPartner

Ryan Flynn is a Partner at McChrystal Group where he advises leaders on major organizational transformation initiatives. His clients have included members of the Fortune 100 and the FTSE 350, and have spanned industries including Financial Services, Professional Services, Manufacturing, and Technology.

Rachel MeyerSenior Associate

Rachel Meyer is a Senior Associate at McChrystal Group, where she works as part of the Implementation team advising businesses and government agencies on optimizing their organizational processes to drive better strategic outcomes.

Maryam ShariatiSenior Learning and Strategy Designer

Maryam Shariati, Ph.D., is a Senior Learning and Strategy Designer, responsible for launching tailored leadership development programs and developing innovative, high-quality solutions that address the learning needs of our clients.

Thomas MaffeySenior Advisor

Tom Maffey is a Senior Advisor at McChrystal Group, where he provides his expertise on engagements and advises senior executives on transformational change.

Ted DelicathPrincipal

Ted Delicath is an Implementation Principal committed to serving clients through structuring and solving problems with them.

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