Merrill Lynch Wealth Management has unveiled its revamped internal workstation for more than 22,000 financial advisers and client associates in an effort to continue to scale up its wealth management business.
The new tech-driven workstation, Client Engagement Workstation, uses artificial intelligence and machine learning and is presented in a browser-like platform personalized for financial advisers to manage and connect with their clientele. To date, Merrill Lynch has 5,500 unique weekly users on the platform following the pilot late last year.
Merrill Lynch gave InvestmentNews an exclusive demo of the new workstation and it operates just like a typical internet browser, eliminating the additional effort to train employees to use the platform. In November, CEW will become the default workstation for all employees, the company noted.
“We wanted [CEW] to replicate the way any of us work on a computer,” Kabir Sethi, head of digital wealth management for Merrill Lynch and Bank of America Private Bank, said in a telephone interview. “So it’s a browser-based experience — whether you’re on Firefox or Safari or anything else. It has a very high level of flexibility because when 22,000 people use something, they don’t use it the same way.”
With the CEW advisers can personalize their work experience from preferred methods of connecting with their clients to customized data figures presented on the platform. “People have different preferences and they have different roles. They have different metrics they want to look at. And, especially in this age, they don’t just use a desktop,” Sethi said.
One of the newest features, Book 360, is a dashboard view for advisers to monitor client metrics and flag priority items needing attention. “If we can save an adviser or a client associate half an hour in a day with 18,000 advisors and over 22,000 users overall — the numbers add up dramatically fast in terms of efficiency,” he said.
For Sethi, the company’s operational connectivity with other sectors of the business helped drive some of the capabilities presented on the new workstation. Bank of America, which acquired Merrill Lynch amid the Financial Crisis fallout in January 2009, allocates billions of dollars to technology investments.
“When you think about the fact that, enterprise wide, we spend upwards of $10 billion on technology, with a large part of that on new initiatives, you can imagine — whether it’s specific capabilities or a platform — how staying connected across the enterprise drives huge benefits in terms of how we can ramp up speed and acceleration of launches.”
Bank of America allocates about $3 billion for new technology initiatives, the company noted.
In fact, some of the banking business trickles into the CEW platform. The AI component of the platform can look at activity across wealth management clients, with their consent, who also bank through Bank of America. Moreover, the CEW has its own version of virtual assistant Erica called Ask Merrill.
Development of the CEW took 18 months before Merrill Lynch publicly revealed the new experience, which is a complete overhaul of the wirehouse’s workstation deployed in the 2000’s.
On the horizon, Merrill Lynch is undergoing a “major transformation” around wealth planning, which is also technology driven, Sethi said. “That’s probably the next conversation we will have.”