Merrill Lynch is bulking up on its international staff, doubling the size of its private bank in Japan, hiring traders throughout Asia and hiring investment bankers in Europe in a bid to establish itself as a serious contender in international markets.
Between 2001 and 2003, Merrill had slashed its overseas staff in half - from 19,900 to 9,900 - and now trails its Wall Street competitors in international business. Bloomberg says that as of December 2005, international headcount had increased to 11,400 and is still growing.
"Most of the growth is occurring internationally and Merrill is just playing catch-up,'' Steve Roukis, managing director at Matrix Asset Advisors in New York, told Bloomberg. "They clearly lagged their peers in that area the last few years."
Yesterday, Merrill reported net revenues of $8.2 billion for the second quarter of 2006, up 29 percent from the prior-year quarter and 2 percent from the 2006 first quarter.
The top-line growth in all three of the firm's business segments underscores "the importance of the investments we have been making to diversify and expand our capabilities and geographic footprints. We continue to invest in talent and technology to build further capabilities in various areas," said Chairman and Chief Executive Stan O'Neal.