Merrill Lynch rolled out a new approach for advisors looking to help clients financially map out their retirement goals. Announced Wednesday, the Merrill Lynch Clear framework includes interactive iPad apps for advisors to use with clients clients’ priorities in order to explore priorities and goals-based investment strategies.
The new approach is based around seven distinct life priorities—health, family, finance, leisure, home, giving and work—that advisors can walk clients through what’s important to them. Merrill partnered with a number of leading experts and companies including AgeWave, Encore.org and luxury travel experts Virtuoso.
“We’re trying to understand where clients’ needs are going to be,” says David Tyrie, head of retirement and personal wealth solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Advisors will be able to turn life priorities into specific goals and then construct an ongoing investment strategy, he says.
Tyrie says the new retirement framework is the result of years of research and thousands of in-person interviews with Baby Boomer clients. "The research showed the customer was looking for a holistic solution," he says. "It's not about an income, it's about an outcome.
A series of what Merrill calls Discovery apps provide investors with personalized exercises, as well as brief educational materials, questionnaires and illustrations to help explain issues facing retirees. For example, within the finance Discovery app, advisors can run through a simulations around how long their money will last in retirement and how to take advantage of Social Security deferrals.
Merrill’s new goals-based approach also aims to train advisors around these seven life priorities and the app-based program. Bank of America spokesman George Creppy says the program is already starting to roll out to advisors, with about 9,000 advisors already trained in using the new tactics. Advisors go through three, 45-minute modules on using the tools, Creppy says.
New York-based Merrill advisor Patricia Cleary, who started in the pilot program about a year ago, says the new iPad apps and the goals-based approach really opened up the conversations she had with clients. “When you have a platform with the stuff that this does, and [clients] realize you’re not kidding about the work that you want to do, and the things that you want to discover about them, it comes forward so much more easily,” she says. “Conversations are so much deeper.”
Advisor Michael Davis calls the system “disruptive,” saying it gives advisors a new way to approach the dialogue with clients, which is essential. “It has been, for me, the most revolutionary change in 27 years,” he says.