Merrill Lynch cuts dedicated SRI research

Bank joins roster of peers by laying off SRI research staff

Merrill Lynch has become the latest research broker to cut dedicated SRI research by laying off specialist staff. Sources close to the bank said that Zoe Knight, London-based senior director of SRI research at Merrill, had been made redundant and would not be replaced. It is not known whether Knight, a respected SRI analyst, has taken up a position elsewhere. A spokesman for Merrill Lynch confirmed Knight’s departure. He said the bank would maintain a commitment to sustainability research analysis within its mainstream equity and bond research. Merrill joins a roster of investments banks that have recently cut back on dedicated SRI research for clients. In December 2008, Responsible Investor revealed that Citi had cut its specialist SRI broker team and subsequently that JP Morgan had ended dedicated ESG coverage. Both said they would roll their SRI services into mainstream equity research. Deutsche Bank also recently discontinued its corporate governance research and decommissioned its specialist related website.At Merrill, Knight had occupied a roving role within the bank’s London-based equity strategy team, examining sector issues with a sustainability focus. She joined the firm in June 2003 as a small and mid-cap strategist before becoming involved with SRI research in January 2007. Knight was also a member of the Merrill Lynch Sustainable Banking Committee.
In December last year, Merrill shareholders agreed a takeover by Bank of America following disastrous losses on sub-prime investments. It was also announced that thousands of staff would be made redundant as a result of the takeover. In recent months, Merrill Lynch has publicly issued research in the environmental space. In December, a Merrill report said clean-tech and biotech investment would be the basis of a “sixth technology revolution”. In October 2007, Merrill and Trucost, the London-based carbon research house, jointly launched the ML Carbon Leaders Index to track blue chip European companies with the best ‘carbon footprints’.