What You Need to Know
- Merrill's new mobile advisor experience (MAX) app launched in late September after a pilot test for a few hundred advisors.
- The app is part of the firm's continuing digital transformation and stands to ease advisors' return to offices.
- Enhancements are already planned, with some coming as soon as November.
Initial advisor feedback to the new mobile advisor experience (MAX) app that Merrill Lynch launched late last month has been strong, with advisors pointing to its convenience and their ability to use it to quickly pull up client insights as major positives.
A pilot with a few hundred users started about a month before the MAX launch, according to Kabir Sethi, managing director and head of digital wealth management at Merrill.
The app provides much of the same client information that advisors could previously get only from their desktop dashboards on their iPhones and iPads. While it stands to make advisors’ transitions back to their offices from working at home easier, Sethi told ThinkAdvisor in a recent interview that the wirehouse would have launched the app even without the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is something we’ve been working on” that is a “part of our overall digital transformation” as Merrill and parent Bank of America continues to enhance the “wealth client and advisory experience,” Sethi said.
That digital transformation had already included the new Merrill Personal Wealth Analysis planning platform introduced last year, its collaborative onboarding experience and new Client Engagement Workstation, he said.
One especially promising sign from the pilot was that much of the initial feedback pertained to enhancements already planned for November, “so it’s stuff that’s in the pipeline already,” according to Michael Lestina, digital channel executive at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, who also demonstrated MAX for ThinkAdvisor.
One example was a request that advisors be able to access their internal production metrics with the app, Lestina said, noting that feature will be added in November.
Easing the Return to the Office
MAX makes the “most integral parts of the workstation available within this very secure device,” according to Aleeza Singh, a senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management who is based in Davenport, Iowa.
Singh was part of the MAX pilot test that started over a month ago, but “just in the last couple of weeks … I’ve been really ramping up my utilization of it, especially as my life kind of gets back to normal a bit,” she said in a phone interview on Thursday. “The more I use it, the more I’m a little addicted to the experience,” she said, adding that she “opened it about three or four times” that day.
After “working from home for about a year and a half,” she is now getting back to life as usual, like her clients, she said.
“Everyone’s moving around a lot more. I am out of pocket a lot more now, as are my clients. So the nice thing about it is it’s just something I can pick up when a client calls me with a specific inquiry” or something she doesn’t want to go to her desktop workstation for. “I can flip it open” and “quickly get the information and pass that onto the client,” she said.
MAX allows her to quickly link to other digital tools she uses, makes it easier to call clients on their birthdays, and isn’t “clunky” like mobile apps that have previously been used in the industry, she added.
Accessing Info Wherever Advisors Are
“The question we were trying to answer” with the new mobile app was “how do we give advisors the ability to access information and give them access to functionality wherever they are,” according to Sethi.