Merrill Lynch Adds Advisor Services and Boosts Training
Merrill Lynch is attempting to become the most diversified and specialized wirehouse in the business. The Bank of America owned wealth management firm has been in the process of an internal, cultural overhaul as they actively prepare to put their clients into various categories to best serve business interests.
Ultimately, Merrill Lynch is focused on addressing the needs of their baby boomers, who represent the first generation that actively planned for retirement. The thundering herd is attempting to work with this client base through more organic terms, and have developed Merrill Lynch Clear to aid in the process.
Clear was launched last spring, allowing advisors to focus on “life priorities: family, home, finances, work, health, leisure and giving.”
The firm has boosted Clear's ability to address many boomers golden years dreams and desires. One example: Merrill has partnered with the travel firm, Virtuoso, to aid in advisory travel planning and leisure.
Additionally, the firm is in the midst of a longevity pilot training program, developed in partnership with University of Southern California. Instead of talking bottom lines, and numbers and figures with these clients, the training will retool advisor perspective when addressing these clients.
“Merrill Lynch Clear has changed the way my clients and I discuss retirement,” said Merrill Lynch advisor, Lisa Kent. “Rather than focusing on a number or benchmark, our conversations more often focus on their dreams, hopes and goals, and how I can help them achieve them. It’s a much more personalized, holistic approach that helps me better meet their needs.”
The firm plans to roll out the 12 hour longevity training course to all of its advisors in April, and advisors can earn up to nine continuing education credits for participating. 50 pilot advisors are currently working through the program. As it stands, approximately 8,000 of Merrill's 14,000-plus advisors are familiar with Clear, and have begun taking advantage of the application.
According to Cynthia Hutchins, director of gerontology at Merrill Lynch, the training is also geared toward practicality of aiding the aging investor. There is a most consistent question coming from advisors, and it has to do with boomer healthcare. Many clients have concerns about unforeseen costs. This includes high-net clients who are concerned about catastrophic care.
Summing it up, Hutchins stated, "I'm a firm believer that we can do a better job as financial advisors if we understand what our clients will face and what they may not have considered.”
Boasting about Merrill Lynch Clear, and the new training program, Head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions offered the following: “We’re continuously exploring and adding powerful capabilities to Merrill Lynch Clear. This dynamic approach is helping to better connect more people’s lives to their finances through broader, more personally meaningful conversations with their financial advisors about their priorities.”