Merrill Lynch to let advisers text with clients

All communication will be time- and date-stamped, tracked, logged and archived

Jan 11, 2018 @ 1:45 pm

By Ryan W. Neal

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management wants investors to be able to text their financial advisers.

Bank of America's wealth management division announced Thursday new client-to-adviser texting capabilities as part of a suite of digital client collaboration tools.

CellTrust, a mobile communications software company, will manage, track and deliver text messages. Clients can simply send messages to the adviser's office number. Advisers enrolled in Merrill's mobility program can use their personal Apple and Android devices to access and respond to messages via a mobile app. They can also use their office PC to create or continue those conversations using a secure web interface.

Merrill says all communication will be time- and date-stamped, tracked, logged and archived.

The program will roll out to Merrill's 15,000 advisers throughout January and February.

"Clients are telling us that they don't check email as regularly as text messages, and some clients have told us that they utilize text messaging as their only means of communication," said "Kabir Sethi, head of digital wealth management for Merrill Lynch, in an email to InvestmentNews. "We realized that we needed to fill this gap to provide better service to our clients."

While texting has been a popular mode of communication for years, industry regulations have prevented advisers from using it. Many texting apps, such as Apple's iMessage, cannot be captured, archived or supervised.

Third-party vendors like Smarsh and Redtail have already started tackling this problem with new features to their technology products for independent RIAs.

(More: Redtail launches compliant texting platform)

David Mehlhorn, Redtail's director of sales, said Merrill's texting features validate the work Redtail has done. He said texting is more efficient than emails or phone calls to confirm meetings or answer quick questions, and there is no learning curve since most clients text in their daily lives already.

"As we witness the upcoming transfer of wealth and a shift to a new generation of investors that grew up with text messaging, the need for a solution will be paramount," Mr. Mehlhorn said. "That said, even those who didn't grow up with texting have widely adopted it as a communication method of choice, meaning its importance now should not be overlooked or seen as an option that advisers can procrastinate about once it is available to them."

At least one other wirehouse also allows texting. Christine Jockle, a spokeswoman for Morgan Stanley, said the firm has infrastructure in place that allows financial advisors to message their clients, integrated with iPhone contacts and the firm directory.

She said it includes two-way texting, voice calls and notifications for appointment scheduling, reminders, confirmation messages and more. The functionality includes industry surveillance and archiving capabilities. Product recommendations, campaigns, trades and prospectuses are prohibited, she said.

Wells Fargo said it is continuing to explore texting capabilities but hasn't introduced anything yet.

A spokesman for UBS couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

(More: The Financial Firm's Guide to Compliant Text Messaging)

The texting capabilities are part of several updates Merrill is making to modernize collaboration between advisers and clients. The latest release integrates the Merrill Lynch Advisor eCommunications Center into Salesforce so advisers can send clients and prospects personalized emails featuring content created and approved by Merrill.

In January 2017, Merrill introduced new website capabilities that let advisers regularly update their pages with pre-approved content. The company said 8,000 financial adviser websites have taken advantage of the new feature over the last year.

The firm also gave advisers permission to create LinkedIn pages that connect with websites. Prospective clients can use Merrill's client website to use their own LinkedIn profiles to find an adviser with common connections.

Merrill said it will continue to invest heavily in client-facing platforms to meet increasing demand for access to financial services through digital channels.

0
Comments

What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Sponsored financial news

Upcoming Event

May 02

Conference

Women Adviser Summit

The InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit, a one-day workshop now held in four cities due to popular demand, is uniquely designed for the sophisticated female adviser who wants to take her personal and professional self to the next level.... Learn more

Featured video

INTV

Advisers beware: tax law has unintended consequences

Commission accounts could be preferable for some clients, and advisers could be incentivized to move from employee broker-dealers to independent channels.

Recommended Video

Path to growth

Latest news & opinion

Bond investors have more to worry about than a government shutdown

Inflation worries, international rates pushing Treasuries yields higher.

State measures to prevent elder financial abuse gaining steam

A growing number of states are looking to pass rules preventing exploitation of seniors.

Morgan Stanley reports a loss of advisers after exiting the protocol for broker recruiting

The firm said it lost 47 brokers in the fourth quarter, the most in any quarter of 2017.

Morgan Stanley's wealth management fees climb to all-time high

Improvement reflect firm's shift of more clients into fee-based accounts priced on asset levels, which boosts results as markets rise.

Legislation would make it harder for investors to sue mutual funds over high fees

A plaintiff would have to state in their initial complaint why fiduciary duty was breached, and then prove the violation with 'clear and convincing evidence.'

X

Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting investmentnews.com? It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist investmentnews.com

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.

X

Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print