Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch, Merrill Edge and Private Bank advisors likely don’t have to worry too much about losing any of their clients as a result of the Life Plan digital planning tool the firm announced early this week, industry experts told ThinkAdvisor.
“Banks with millions of customers need to leverage technology to be able to engage, so this is yet another financial planning calculator-goal tracker that is much, much better than what they had,” according to Tim Welsh, head of the consultancy Nexus Strategy and a former Schwab executive.
“For the mass affluent, it can work and no Merrill advisor can touch anyone under $1 million, so [it poses] no threat at all” to advisors, Welsh said, adding: “If anything, this will be a lead generation tool for Merrill Edge” advisors, but not typical Merrill Lynch advisors.
Similarly, Danny Sarch, president of Leitner Sarch Consultants, told ThinkAdvisor: “I don’t think any new, single online tool is a threat to the relationships that Merrill advisors have with their clients,” especially those with at least $500,000 in assets.
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“The idea that this will somehow poach clients from Merrill Lynch who see it as competitive is, I think, way overstating it,” he said, adding: “There are nuances and ups and downs, and you need to realize when you reach a certain level of sophistication you need to talk to a professional,” he said, adding: “I don’t see that changing, regardless of the financial tool.”
However, calling Life Plan a “mixed blessing for Merrill Lynch advisors,” Mark Elzweig, president of Mark Elzweig Company, told ThinkAdvisor: “On the one hand, the bank could refer clients to them who need more customized advice. On the other hand, advisors have less control over the relationship.”