A Merrill Lynch branch office (Photo: AP)

Merrill Lynch’s 22,000 advisors and client associates are getting new workstations. The Client Workstations, or CEWs, can be used to manage multiple clients at the same time, the firm says.

The Bank of America-owned business says the platform has improved search and navigation abilities, along with other features to help remote and mobile users. 

Also, the new Merrill technology includes Book 360, a dashboard with details on each advisor’s full practice of clients, metrics and priority items. The development comes about 18 months after rival Morgan Stanley introduced WealthDesk, its new advisor platform.

“In this environment, any enhancements that allow advisors to gain additional time to serve clients is extremely valuable,” according to a statement.

The CEW platform has been in the works for the past 18 months. It replaces the Wealth Management Workstation (WMW), which Merrill launched more than a decade ago, and can be accessed via a desktop, laptop or tablet issued by the firm.

“While investments have been made in the platform and applications over this period, the workflow, core technology design and hardware requirement had remained largely unchanged,” the firm explained. 

Advisors and associates started virtual training for the new technology in April and May. Some 5,500 Merrill Lynch employees used them in a pilot project late last year.

Merrill did not put a price tag on the workstations but said they were part of Bank of America’s $10 billion tech budget, which includes about $3 billion for new projects that aim to improve client experience.

Q1 Earnings

Merrill Lynch said its advisor headcount grew in the first quarter to 17,646. That’s up 111 from a year ago and 188 from the prior quarter. Total client assets were $2.2 trillion as of March 31.

At the same time, the average 12-month fees and commissions per advisor were $1.14 million, compared with $1.04 million in Q1’19 and $1.1 million in Q4’19.

But this type of growth appears unlikely for Q2’20, based on the impact of restricted recruiting, face-to-face meetings with clients and prospects due to the coronavirus and market-related issues.

The wealth unit’s revenue was $4.936 billion, up $116 million from a year ago and $23 million from Q4’19. The pretax margin, though, fell to 23% vs. 29% last year and 28% in the prior quarter.