By Ackermann, Matt
American Banker , Vol. 168, No. 24
To reach affluent women and African-American investors, Merrill Lynch & Co. has started two units that will try to hire minority advisers in an effort to develop more relationships with the target groups.
The new units, which were introduced Thursday, expand the New York brokerage company's multicultural and diversified business development group that was started in 2001. Caroline Gundeck was promoted to run the women's business development group, and Keith B. Henry was named to run Merrill's African-American markets.
Ms. Gundeck, 40, is to be responsible for expanding Merrill's wallet share among high-net-worth female investors. She said she would focus on business growth through campaigns targeting women business owners, executives, and philanthropists.
"A lot of firms are targeting women and minorities, but what makes us unique is, we are doing it through specific business units," Ms. Gundeck said. "This is a critical initiative for Merrill Lynch. This is a specific strategy for success."
Mr. Henry, 40, is to try to raise Merrill's profile among wealthy African-Americans. He will run the newly created African American Virtual Network, which trains Merrill's African-American financial advisers.
"We want to train our financial advisers to understand the African-American community," Mr. Henry said. "We want to put them in the right places to reach out to affluent African-Americans. Our financial advisers are good at attracting customers if they are put in the right place at the right time. We just haven't had the opportunity to reach out till now."
The multicultural and diversified business development group was started in October 2001 to try to establish Merrill Lynch as the "wealth management firm of choice" by targeting cultures individually. The group began last February by focusing on Asian-Indian communities in the United States. In June, a unit was established to target Hispanic-Americans.
Subha V. Barry, a first vice president and head of the multicultural and diversified business group, said these efforts' success was "measurable" and encouraged the group to target other affinity groups as it did Thursday with women and African-Americans.
Robert E. Mulholland, a senior vice president and head of Merrill's Americas private-client region, said the multicultural and diversified business development group had succeeded by "providing financial advisers with special services at a local level (to) help us expand our services into diverse markets."
Ms. Gundeck said that, to expand its reach among wealthy women, Merrill needs to hire more female advisers. Of Merrill's 13,000 financial advisers in the United States, 15% are women and 7.5% members of minority groups.
"We want to reach out to women with women," Ms. …