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Thursday, 18th April 2024
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Backing the bull even when the bears are at the door Back  
International player Merrill Lynch recently launched a private client office in Dublin targeting high net worth individuals based in Ireland. On his recent visit to Dublin, Merrill Lynch chairman emeritus, Dan Tully shared his views with Ken O’Brien on being proponents of the bull in a bear market.
Some years back, on New York’s Bowling Green - just around the corner from Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange - they erected a rather handsome sculpture of a bull.

The sculpture looks a bit forlorn these days as the chilly March winds continue to blow down the canyons of the city’s Wall Street district, while indoors, on the floor of the NYSE, the climate is no less uncomfortable.

But perhaps in the bleakest of times the optimist, the positive thinker, can take heart from the notion of (or the memory of) the bull. Certainly the founders of the New York investment bank Merrill Lunch took this view when they chose the image of the bull as their logo.

Their successor, chairman emeritus of Merrill Lynch, Dan Tully, visited Dublin this month for the establishment in Ireland of a private banking service targeted at high net worth Irish individuals.
Perhaps the timing of the launch of a service that involved imparting equity purchasing advice in the middle of a bear market might seem inauspicious. The positive thinking investor might, on the other hand, see it as apt. Consequently Dan Tully was in upbeat mode at the launch where he was wearing a tie featuring the Merrill bull.

Asked to look back on the years when he held the executive reins at Merrill Lynch, Tully emphasises that a long-term perspective as necessary to the success of the company in the 1980s and 1990s as an investment bank.

Merrill’s own stock performance, of regular shareholder returns of up to 30 per cent, he attributed to its success as an investment bank, in competition with about 10 others, and ability to take market share to become the number one firm in debt and equity markets.

Thinking long term, not short term, and having a total fixation on doing what is right for the client rather than getting obsessed with the transaction has been the key to Merrill’s success, he says.
The bank is currently engaged in establishing a network of private client offices in the UK and Ireland (office have been set up in London, Dublin, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh).

The Dublin private client office has a team that includes four relationship managers, all of whom are Irish.

Sean O’Flannagain is a first vice president of Merrill Lynch International Bank. Prior to his recent return to Dublin he spent over a decade with Merrill Lynch based in New York where he was a member of the firm’s director’s circle and where he advised leading pension fund managers and corporate executives on global equity and venture capital investments.

The second Irish relationship manager is James Meenan who joined Merrill Lynch in London in 1985 and has developed a number of long-standing client relationships throughout Ireland. Also in the Irish office is John Crowe who joined Merrill Lynch International Bank in February 2000 having worked for the previous 10 years with KPMG Ireland as a director of Personal Financial Services division and before then with the private client division of Bank of Ireland Asset Management.

Kevin Maughan is the final relationship manager to make up the team. He is a Dublin native and in common with the other three is a graduate of the Michael Smurfit School of Business. He has returned from Merrill Lynch in the US to be based in the Dublin office.

Colin Guild and Darren McDermot support the team as administration and control officer and client services officer respectively.

Speaking at the launch of the Dublin private client office, John Maitland, managing director of Merrill Lynch’s International Private Client Group in the UK and Ireland said the company ‘can offer a truly global service to our clients with a particular emphasis on bespoke solutions. We spend a great deal of time working with them to ensure we have a full understanding of their needs and objectives and our response is tailored to those requirements. We look forward to welcoming clients to our new office in the Treasury Building in Grand Canal Street, in Dublin, where we will be neighbours to our capital markets banking colleagues who have been based in Ireland since 1995.’

Merrill Lynch has had a base of operation in Dublin since 1995 when it established a bank, Merrill Lynch Capital Markets Bank Limited, to conduct international capital markets business activities.

The bank has recorded after tax profits of $247.8 million in 2000, of which $199.5 million is attributable to the Dublin activities. These figures are up from 1999 where the bank took $197.4 million in after tax profit and the Dublin contribution was $151.4 million. Today Merrill Lynch employs 170 people in the Dublin office, after hiring 67 people in 2000. In total the bank says that 88 per cent of the employees are at a graduate level.

The Irish base conducts a range of business activities including debt derivative trading, debt product sales, credit facilities and loan structuring. According to the company the Dublin operation is a significant service provider to many internal and external clients of the group. These services include transaction processing, settlement, documentation and other client services in respect of foreign exchange, debt derivatives, equity linked products, structured financing and private client business activities.

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