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Practice Management > Building Your Business > Prospect Clients

Merrill Debuts Tool to Help Investors Find Advisors

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What You Need to Know

  • Merrill Advisor Match was in development since late 2020, with input from advisors.
  • The tool connects people seeking financial advice with a Merrill advisor who best fits their needs and preferences.
  • Tech experts on Tuesday questioned just how useful the tool will be for people trying to find an advisor.

Merrill Wealth Management launched a new, research-based, digital online tool on Tuesday that the wirehouse said connects people seeking financial advice with a Merrill advisor who best fits their needs and preferences.

Merrill Advisor Match was in development since late 2020, Jennifer Auerbach Rodriguez, head of client acquisition, retention and strategic growth initiatives, told ThinkAdvisor during a recent briefing and demonstration of the new tool.

“Like many efforts at Merrill,” Advisor Match was developed “in the closest of partnerships with our financial advisors,” she pointed out, noting they included some of the firm’s best advisors, who provided their feedback on various aspects of the tool, including it being integrated directly into their client relationship management tool or Salesforce.

Just ahead of the tool’s launch on Tuesday, 5,300 Merrill advisors across the U.S. were “ready to get matched” with prospective clients using the tool, she said, adding a marketing campaign is planned to promote it.

Tech Experts Doubtful

Fintech experts, however, questioned just how effective or useful the new tool would be for people who don’t currently have an advisor, a key market that Merrill is targeting with the tool.

“If I were in the market for an advisor, I’m not sure I’d want to use a tool that limited the pool of advisors to ML advisors only,” Joel Bruckenstein, head of  Technology Tools for Today (T3), said on Tuesday by email. “That does not make sense to me.”

Pointing out that “online advisor matching tools have been available for over a decade,” Timothy Welsh, president and founder of consulting firm Nexus Strategy, said the new Merrill tool is “not at all new or innovative and is limited to just a Merrill Advisor, which by definition makes them all the same since they can only use and recommend Merrill products.”

Meanwhile, the “platforms that have been successful, like IndyFin, are true open architecture, creating the opportunity for investors to get a truly tailored match,” Welsh added.

‘Modern Approach’ Needed

Data showed there was a need for a “modern approach” to finding an advisor, according to Merrill. About 33% of affluent Americans were not working with an advisor now, the data also showed.

Reasons cited by people for not using an advisor included: they don’t know how to find the right advisor (22% of respondents), reaching out to an advisor is intimidating (14%) and they can’t find one who understands their unique needs (10%), Merrill said.

Merrill Advisor Match solves those needs by providing a simple set of questions for people to answer, serving up a personalized list of advisors and providing the option for the prospect to digitally schedule a meeting with the advisor of their choice, the company said.

According to a recent Merrill survey, affluent Americans prioritized working with an advisor who matched their communication style (90%) and personality (83%) almost as much as one who delivered financial results (93%).

The survey consisted of 1,095 affluent respondents throughout the U.S. Respondents who participated were aged 18 to 99, with investable assets of $250,000 and above. Market research company Concentrix conducted a panel-sample online survey on behalf of Bank of America/Merrill July 22-August 4, according to the wirehouse.

The questionnaire and technology behind Merrill Advisor Match were developed and informed by in-depth interviews, focus groups and quantitative surveys with clients in addition to advisors, the company said. The tool matches people to advisors based on multiple dimensions, including engagement preferences, guidance style and personality traits, the firm said.

“We’ve combined a century of bringing Wall Street to Main Street with a personalized digital experience that takes the guesswork out of finding the right advisor,” Andy Sieg, president of Merrill Wealth Management, said in a statement. “Merrill Advisor Match is an industry-changing innovation that reflects our modern Merrill strategy, helping to connect more investors to advice from the best advisors in the industry.”

(Image: Shutterstock) 


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