Merrill One: Home-grown customer centricity comes at a price?

May 29, 2014 Kyle Thom

customer-centric innovations in banking

At Zafin, we’re always interested in examples of financial institutions working on customer-centric innovations to improve the experience of both clients and staff alike. For instance, take Merrill Lynch’s Merrill One platform (story courtesy of Wall Street & Technology’s Becca Lipman).

Merrill Lynch was faced with five legacy platforms – some introduced as far back as 1989. Since these systems didn’t talk to each other, advisors struggled to onboard clients. As Lipman notes, this issue extends to most major brokerage firms, with multiple advisory platforms either stitched together or not integrated at all.

In September 2013, Bank of America Merrill Lynch began the 12-month rollout of a $100 million project that would impact the workflows and relationship of nearly every financial advisor, client associate and end customer.

“We heard loud and clear from clients that they’re looking for simplicity and transparency,” said Lorna Sabbia, project lead. “We heard that over and over again.”


Merrill One project highlights:

  • Merged five siloed managed account platforms into one
  • Offer advisors a single view of client’s accounts to match against client goals
  • Emphasis on streamlined workflow, speed of contracts and unified fee structures

Perhaps the most compelling aspect is the notion of relationship pricing.

“Under the new goals-based structure, pooling the disparate account balances could result in a more favourable fee. The higher the account value, the lower the fee. Eager to improve their rates, clients have been actively bringing over assets from competitor services and adding family members to their accounts. Parents, for example, are signing on their children’s mortgages to get better rates. The household level view gives advisors opportunities to uncover hidden assets and sell targeted products. That directly relates to a lot of the metrics advisors and [client associates] are tracked on.”

“We do a lot of family accounts. When we go out to clients, we are able to explain to them that Merrill Lynch brought on a new program that values the depth and breadth of their relationship. Whatever they were doing before, mortgages, investments, IRAs and so on, we can now value that in total. We are able to bring out relationship-based pricing and it has been understood 100% by the clients.”

The Merrill One project should be commended – it’s bold, it’s holistic and it’s clearly adding a tremendous amount of value to the client offering. But it comes at a price. According to Lipman, a 270-person team has been working on the Merrill One platform for two and a half years, and they’re just getting started. In this case, making the vision a reality in-house requires a sizeable number of people resources for a significant period of time.


Did you know there’s an alternative?

…and best of all, it doesn’t require a battalion of in-house architects? As a middleware layer between back-office systems and customer-facing channels, Zafin offers a comprehensive, end-to-end solution to consolidate legacy systems, improve fee transparency and deliver tailored propositions based on the value of the client’s entire relationship.

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