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November 10, 2009

McCann Readies Next Big Trade

By Michael Scotti

Robert McCann, longtime trading honcho turned wealth management executive, has settled his differences with his former firm and appears ready to continue his career in retail brokerage.

Last month, McCann settled a lawsuit with Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The agreement freed him from a non-compete clause in his Merrill Lynch contract that ran through 2009. McCann resigned in January from Merrill after the firm's merger with Bank of America. He left because a change in his role at the new firm diminished his responsibilities there, according to reports. Consequently, he wanted to be released from his non-compete.

From 1982 on, McCann spent almost his entire career at Merrill, except for a short stint at Axa Financial as a vice chairman. But his long association with Merrill was expected to end last month, as many believe he was ready to take a job at UBS to run the former PaineWebber retail brokerage division, according to reports.

But it was trading where McCann earned his Wall Street stripes, having been global head of equities and later head of research at Merrill. One former rank-and-file trader at Merrill Lynch described McCann as being "extremely popular" because he was fair-minded and down-to-earth. "He came off as a regular guy and he'd give you a shot if he thought you could do the job," he said. "He ran things as a meritocracy."

McCann's rapid rise had already begun when he and Michael Marks, the co-heads of global equities, were on the cover of the August 1996 issue of Traders Magazine. The story, "Merrill Lynch Goes Global: Conquering Markets With Smith New Court," reported how Merrill Lynch had catapulted to the top of the trading ranks one year after purchasing U.K. brokerage powerhouse Smith New Court.

The $850 million acquisition made Merrill a global player overnight in the world of equity trading, pushing the combined firm to a No. 1 ranking in Europe, Latin America and for all ordinaries and ADRs. "We had a very strong U.S. equity business that had organically grown an international effort," McCann said at the time. "And we were proud of that effort, but it was a boutique in the scheme of things at Merrill Lynch."


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