Merrill Lynch is rolling out Supernova, a program that encourages reps to move smaller accounts to call centers and service wealthier clientele using a new system.

Created by Robert Knapp, managing director of Midwest markets in Carmel, Ind., Supernova operates on a 12-4-2 rule. Starting with a financial plan, all high-net-worth clients are guaranteed monthly contacts by their broker, usually over the phone, along with quarterly “diagnostic” reviews and two in-person sessions for longer-term planning.

After agreeing on a monthly contact time, clients and brokers use hard-copy folders for writing down specific questions to be discussed each month.

As part of the program, brokers are given time- and contact-management software. The software, which Knapp describes as “Microsoft Excel on steroids,” maintains contact scheduling and client information. “Each and every client now knows the day and time their broker will call,” he says.

Supernova is being debuted gradually, starting this spring in the Great Lakes and New England districts, and moving nationwide until completed next summer. Knapp and his team make training presentations at branch offices.

The initiative is designed to help reps overcome “an account problem,” Knapp says. “The 80-20 rule is more like the 90-10 rule. We had to reduce the broker's book size.” He predicts brokers using the program will have no more than 200 clients.

Knapp calls Supernova a “skunk-works operation. It's not from New York or Princeton, and it's not reactive. We're giving the FAs what they really want.”

“Before this program, I didn't even have a minimum on accounts,” agrees one Merrill rep. “But now I do.”

Knapp says the program is named for the celestial phenomenon of a star, burning so brightly that it implodes, compresses to its core and grows to several times its original size.