Seven years after its launch, Merrill Edge has amassed over $165 billion in assets and 2.3 million accounts. The do-it-yourself investing platform was recently complemented by Merrill Edge Guided Investing (MEGI), the firm’s robo platform, which has a $5,000 account minimum.
While Merrill Lynch‘s wealth-management operations employ about 15,000 traditional financial advisors, Merrill Edge clients with $20,000 or more in an account have access to a separate group of 2,100 advisors with whom they can work in person and roughly 1,000 they can interact with via call centers.
Aron Levine — head of the business unit — answered the following questions via email about Merrill Edge and the strategy driving it:
Can you briefly describe the latest innovations involving both Merrill Edge and Merrill Edge Guided Investing and when they were made?
While we are continually enhancing our offering on Merrill Edge, our most significant innovation was the launch of Merrill Edge Guided Investing (MEGI), Merrill Edge’s online advisory platform.
We launched MEGI last February after 18 months of in-house development. MEGI is a new, intuitive online investing capability that combines expert insight with the convenience and flexibility of online portfolio management.
To use the platform, investors can create an account online with a minimum of $5,000. The process is simple: Investors set a goal, and based on time horizon and risk profile, receive an investment strategy designed by a team of Merrill Lynch investment experts. They are then presented with options to open and fund the account.
With MEGI, investors can pursue their financial and life goals, whether they have a little or a lot to invest. We’re excited about this offering and look forward to continuing to bring together advice and technology while creating stronger relationships with investors.
How do these innovations fit in with Merrill Lynch overall and its strategies?
At Bank of America and Merrill Edge, we are committed to making our clients’ financial lives better by connecting them to the right resources, services and solutions, on both the asset and liability sides of the balance sheet. Merrill Edge and MEGI enable us to better connect with clients online and in financial centers to provide the tools and solutions to meet both short- and long-term financial goals.
Merrill Edge combines the convenience of Bank of America banking solutions with the investment expertise of Merrill Lynch. Clients who prefer to manage their investments on their own have access to a full range of investments, easy-to-use tools and industry leading Merrill Lynch research.
For clients who want to work with an advisor, we have over 2,000 financial center-based advisors and well as phone-based advisors ready to support a client as they develop a plan to realize their life priorities.
Finally, for clients who are comfortable using a digital solution but still want access to managed portfolios, we offer MEGI. The strategies MEGI recommends are built and managed by the Global Wealth and Investment Management Chief Investment Office (GWIM CIO).
Where is Merrill Edge (launched in 2010) in terms of assets and client numbers? And how about the Guided Portfolios (launched in 2017)?
The firm currently has approximately $166 billion in assets and more than 2.3 million accounts. We’re excited to report since its launch, MEGI has been extremely well received in the marketplace. While we are not yet reporting assets and client data for MEGI, the response has been overwhelmingly positive and we have exceeded our expectations in terms of accounts and assets.
In addition to these assets and client numbers, we’re proud of the industry recognition we’ve received. Merrill Edge was recently named the top online broker by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in a tie for first place and the best online broker by NerdWallet’s annual online broker review. We also received recognition as one of the top online brokers by Barron’s, Stockbrokers.com and the Customer Service Institute of America, which highlighted our focus on customer service, research and technology.
What does Merrill Lynch see as the current client expectations for both Merrill Edge and Merrill Edge Guided Investing?
We know from our Merrill Edge Report, a biannual look at the financial concerns and behaviors of mass affluent Americans, that investors embrace the idea of online investing.
Our spring report, released in May 2017, found one in eight Americans (13%) are currently using a robo-advisor or would consider using one in the next year. This figure jumps to 22% among millennials. Those who do use an online investing platform say it has a positive impact, making them feel more knowledgeable, empowered and savvy.
We also know our clients have different investment preferences and needs depending on where they are in life. This is why we continue to provide flexible, innovative offerings that help our clients safely and seamlessly pursue their financial goals.
In addition to MEGI, we offer our Online Investing and Trading Platform that provides digital tools and research to help clients make their own investment decisions.
For clients who want an investment plan tailored to their needs, we offer Merrill Edge Select Portfolios, where clients work with a financial solutions advisor to help define and develop an investment plan to pursue their financial goals. And for clients who have more complex needs, they may choose to work with a Merrill Lynch or U.S. Trust financial advisor to create a financial plan tailored to their needs.
How mobile are these offerings?
As more investors live their lives on the go, we know it’s important for clients to have accessibility to new planning tools that can help them track account activity, monitor markets, place trades and interact with portfolio data through an intuitive experience.