Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch wealth group has launched an Elite Growth Practice program that it says aims to boost the performance of its financial advisors and their teams as clients’ expectations continue to rise.
EGP, in development for about two years, is intended to provide the firm’s more than 17,500 advisors with practice management insights from the industry’s top advisors, according to the company.
In a phone interview on Friday, Nilesh Parikh, Merrill’s Teaming and Practice Management Consulting Group executive, explained the details of the program, including the new diagnostic tools the firm has created for it.
“The industry is changing quite rapidly [and] our clients are asking for more and more,” including comprehensive advice, Parikh told ThinkAdvisor.
“The challenge is, as clients are asking for more, we need to figure out a way to scalably support our advisors and their teams,” he said, noting Merrill did a lot of client research and “also heard at the same time from advisors,” who said they “could really use a blueprint to figure out how to respond to all the changes in the industry.”
The company decided to find a way to “institutionalize what our best teams are doing” across the country, “codify it by spending time with that team, studying what they’re doing and then socializing it through a platform” like EGP, he explained.
Virtual EGP Playbook
A common theme Merrill heard from advisors managing teams was that they needed support to operate their evolving practices like CEOs, Parikh said.
To help teach that, Merrill developed the first key component of EGP: the Virtual EGP Playbook, a new suite of tools that went live May 26, he noted. Initial demand was strong, he said, telling ThinkAdvisor “we had close to 30,000 hits to the site” as of Friday, including about 7,000-8,000 unique users.
The playbook is “for everybody” among the firm’s advisors, he said.
New Career Paths, Titles
The second key component of EGP are new career paths and titles intended to ensure each advisory team is efficient and effective. Advisors are trained at every step, and the firm lets them know what steps they need to follow to reach the next step in their career destinations, Parikh said.
That process started June 8 and has so far entailed “robust discussions with individual employees to understand what they do every day and their career aspirations” to ensure they’re “put in the right role” at the firm, he said.
After that process ends for participants Aug. 31, he said, about 1,100 investment analysts and investment associates and analysts will be “moved into new roles that far better describe what they do and position them to learn from one another,” he added.