John Thiel, Chair

Transformational Global Leader

John Thiel is a dynamic board director, trusted business advisor, and visionary financial services CEO whose steadfast caring and deep understanding of people has guided the success of his storied career. After nearly 30 years of change leadership and growth, he stepped away from Merrill Lynch in 2018 to leverage his financial acumen, cultural expertise, and problem-solving skills toward a portfolio of pursuits.

A sought-after board director, John currently serves on the boards of Franklin Resources, Inc., Cohen & Steers Income Opportunities REIT Inc., and Decker Communications. In 2020, he was elected as a Trustee at his alma mater, Florida State University, where he applies his ability to understand multiple, complex stakeholder viewpoints and respond to change while remaining true to the university’s mission. John additionally serves as a Senior Advisor and Partner at MyNextSeason, helping senior executives transition well into a meaningful retirement or new career chapter while assisting the company in strategy, business development, and relationship building.

During his 27 years at Merrill Lynch, John accelerated growth and drove a dramatic cultural and strategic transformation to better serve clients’ needs. As head of Wealth Management, he led Merrill’s shift into goals-based wealth management and became a renowned thought leader in the financial services industry. He grew revenue from $12.5B to $15B, doubled pre-tax margins to 28%, reengineered and grew the financial advisor training program, and reduced experienced financial advisor attrition to historic lows of 2.5%. Throughout his tenure, John cultivated a culture that fostered a powerful relationship of trust between clients and advisors. He additionally launched programs aimed at the total health of the Merrill workforce as well as a long-term commitment within the company of giving back.

John’s culture of caring extends to a deep commitment to social impact work. Dedicated to the cause of eradicating cancer, he is an engaged board member of the V Foundation and has helped double annual fundraising in the last five years to more than $70M as the Chairman of Don’t Ever Give Up. John additionally serves as a member of the FINRA Investment Committee and the Investor Education Foundation boards, promoting initiatives focused on improving the financial literacy of underserved populations.

John is a frequent speaker, sharing insights on leadership, creating client trust, and responding to changing financial needs in a shifting environment. John was honored to be a commencement speaker at Florida State University in 2014 and 2019 where he has been inducted into the College of Business Alumni Hall of Fame. He and has wife, Karen, have been married for more than 40 years and they have three adult children.

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