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Merrill Boosts Its Clear Process

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Bank of America-Merrill Lynch is rolling out several enhancements to its Clear process, which aims to further boost the Thundering Herd’s ability to help clients with retirement planning and living. They include a partnership with luxury travel firm Virtuoso and a longevity training program developed with the University of Southern California.

“We’re continuously exploring and adding powerful capabilities to Merrill Lynch Clear,” said David Tyrie, head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions for Merrill Lynch, in a statement. “This dynamic approach is helping to better connect more people’s lives to their finances through broader, more personally meaningful conversations with their financial advisors about their priorities.”

Merrill launched Clear last May, so its advisors could focus on seven client “life priorities: family, home, finances, work, health, leisure and giving,” according to the firm. These priorities, of course, are addressed along with financial goals analysis and mixed in with the advisors’ financial-planning efforts. Together, they form Merrill’s Goals-Based Wealth Management approach.

Clients using Clear will now have access to travel advisors through Virtuoso. In a statement from Merrill, Tyrie says the program will help advisors and clients “broaden the retirement planning conversation and to help clients make the most of their free time.”

The 12-hour longevity training program will give advisors more research regarding the needs of today’s aging population and new insights into retirement realities, through a project with Age Wave. A pilot group of 50 Merrill reps and specialists began the course last month.

In April, the training program will be available to all advisors and wealth specialists, who can earn up to nine continuing education credits for participating.

According to Tyrie, some 8,600 of the firm’s 14,000 advisors are using some aspect of the Clear process, which includes videos, white papers and seminars. Plus, roughly 4,500 advisors are employing Clear’s crown jewel: a series of iPad “Discovery Apps” with colorful infographics that focus on each of the seven priorities, plus retirement-specific components such as Social Security.

For instance, with the Health app, it’s possible to forecast out-of-pocket costs based on clients’ specific medical conditions as they age.

“Merrill Lynch Clear has changed the way my clients and I discuss retirement,” said Lisa Kent, a Merrill Lynch advisor based in Princeton, N.J., in a press release. “Rather than focusing on a number or benchmark, our conversations more often focus on their dreams, hopes and goals, and how I can help them achieve them. It’s a much more personalized, holistic approach that helps me better meet their needs.”