These changes could disrupt relationship when an advisor switches firms and affect client rights

Bank of America Merrill Lynch, another wirehouse firm with 17,221 advisors as of the third quarter, surprised industry experts when it announced this week it will stay in the protocol.

“While other firms are focused on leaving the Broker Protocol as a way of retaining advisors and clients, we’re staying focused on making sure that our advisors have everything they need to serve their clients and grow their businesses,” Merrill Lynch Wealth Management head Andy Sieg told his leadership team and market executives on Monday. “We’re asking our advisors, in turn, to concentrate on two things: First, to help existing clients achieve their financial goals, and second, to acquire new client relationships.”

Wells Fargo, the fourth top wirehouse firm, has made no decisions regarding its participation, a spokeswoman for the firm told

The wirehouse firms represent a shrinking portion of the financial advice market.

Wirehouses had 47,029 total advisors as of the end of 2016, according to research firm Cerulli Associates. Independent channels, including independent and hybrid registered investment advisors and independent broker-dealers, had 124,464 advisors.

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