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Merrill Launches Account Overview Videos for Clients

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What You Need to Know

  • The new Digital Wealth Overview video tool presents another way for Merrill to differentiate its offerings from those of rivals.
  • The tool was designed to complement, not replace, the ways advisors engage with clients.
  • Enhanced Personal Wealth Summary reports are replacing the reports that clients have been receiving.

Merrill Lynch clients who would prefer to see their investment and banking details by watching a short video rather than combing through multiple PDFs, apps and screens across multiple financial services firms now have that option with the launch of the company’s Digital Wealth Overview tool.

Digital Wealth Overview is a three-minute, highly personalized, interactive video presentation that is narrated by Erica, Merrill parent company Bank of America’s virtual assistant. Merrill believes it is the first company in the wealth management industry to leverage personalized videos, it said.

With the push of a button, Merrill financial advisors can send the Digital Wealth Overview video to a client with real-time information securely, according to the company, which provided ThinkAdvisor with a demo Wednesday.

The new video tool was rolled out to clients Monday, along with Wealth Overview Personal Wealth Summary (PWS), a new report that supports comprehensive discussions between advisor and clients by combining data from all of the client’s Merrill and Bank of America accounts and also accounts held away from Merrill at other firms, the company said.

“Wealth Overview is a new way that we’re going to engage clients who are enrolled” in the firm’s fee-based, fiduciary investment advisory program (IAP), Carl Swanson, head of Advisor and Client Experience in the Investment Solutions Group at Bank of America, told ThinkAdvisor on Wednesday.

A Differentiating Tool

The company developed Wealth Overview in response to feedback from advisors and clients, and presents another way for Merrill to differentiate its offerings from rivals, he said.

Wealth Overview presents clients with data from all their Merrill accounts “in a single, consolidated view” that includes investment advisory accounts, brokerage accounts and banking accounts they have with Merrill and Bank of America, along with any accounts they have at other companies that they give the company permission to include, he explained.

“This holistic view definitely supports more comprehensive discussions between advisors and clients, and presents the ability to drill deeper into asset allocation [and] holding performance of their IAP accounts so that IAP is considered in the context of the client’s overall financial picture,” he said.

PWS will “replace the portfolio summary in existing reports that we already send to clients,” such as welcome kits for new IAP clients and the report that an advisor sends to a client after an annual review is completed, he noted. The existing portfolio summary only reviewed the client’s IAP account details, he pointed out.

“Advisors will be able to create these [new] reports for clients on an ad hoc basis as they see fit throughout the year,” he said.

Unlike PWS reports, Digital Wealth Overview videos will not be automatically sent to clients, he noted, explaining: “Advisors will decide which clients they would like to send it to and when. Because it’s basically a new way of communicating with clients and it’s digital and it’s a video, we wanted to give the power to advisors to determine when and how to use this particular tool.”

Digital Wealth Overview will be delivered securely by advisors to their clients’ MyMerrill accounts, which can be accessed via Android and iOS mobile devices as well as desktop browsers, he said. Clients will also get emails from advisors to notify them that Overview was sent to them.

Wealth Overview is part of the ML One 2.0 “multi-year strategy,” he said, noting ML One is the platform that financial advisors use to enroll and manage clients in the advisory program. As part of the 2.0 initiative, the company is “simplifying, modernizing and advancing” the advisory program, he explained.

The Target Audience

The company expects that younger clients will likely, at least initially, be the ones who find the Digital Wealth Overview tool the most appealing.

“Video has become more of the normal way in which individuals like to consume data, especially the younger demographic,” according to Tim Paul, client experience and collaboration executive at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

Based on feedback from surveying Merrill clients, Digital Wealth Overview was viewed favorably because, even among some older clients, it “gives them the ability to go through and consume the information at their own pace,” he told ThinkAdvisor. Merrill expects the tool to be “embraced by a pretty wide” percentage of the client base, although likely more so by younger clients, he said.

The company will continue to get feedback from clients to make improvements as needed, add new features, and gauge who is reacting positively, the executives said.

Although Digital Wealth Overview is “absolutely a differentiating service,” Swanson stressed: “We do not expect a narrated video that’s interactive to replace what our financial advisors do for their clients…. We envision this as a tool to complement all of the ways advisors are currently engaging with clients.”

(Pictured: Carl Swanson, head of Advisor and Client Experience in the Investment Solutions Group at Bank of America)

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