Merrill Lynch has introduced the fully digital onboarding process


    Merrill Lynch has quietly introduced another important piece of technology that, at least initially, will benefit most of the 15,000 consultants in its thunder herd along with their clients and the company’s client employees.

    The Collaborative On-Boarding Experience, COBE for short, completely optimizes and digitizes the experience of opening and onboarding customer accounts (no more wet signatures required).

    The overall evolution of COBE has been a year-long journey with access granted to more than 20,000 users across the country since mid-April. Before that, it was piloted with around 2,000 users from mid-2020.

    What used to be a routine paper-based process that lasts a week or more can now, according to the company, be completed in minutes when working with a prospect or client.

    Similarly, in the case where a customer has at least a single account with the company, an employee of the customer should be able to open several other accounts on behalf of the customer upon request, without asking the customer for the initial initialization little having to disrupt data. This means you will be able to open and manage accounts in the various asset management groups at Merrill Lynch, and ultimately Bank of America’s banking services.


    “This is one of the hardest nuts to crack,” said Kabir Sethi, director of digital wealth management at Bank of America, Merrill Lynch.

    “It is extremely difficult to digitize this legacy process that we have end-to-end where there can be multiple accounts – there is a lot of friction to deal with,” he said, noting that the ultimate goal is to do so to be used as a corporate platform In the entire wealth business, workflows are digitized and banking and brokerage are integrated, which ultimately eliminates forms (paper and digital). By the end of the year, he said 80% of all asset management account types should be available within COBE.

    “Customers can be completely free if they want, and let the advisor and customer reps do everything based on previous accounts, or the customer can be much more involved in a collaborative process,” said Sethi.

    An important aspect of COBE, which could go unnoticed by many, is the combination of the customer who confirms his / her identity during the onboarding (provisions for getting to know your customer). These used to be two separate actions.


    “We always have the option to send an inquiry to the customer [or prospect] to work together, ”said Georgio Vuolde, who leads digital onboarding for wealth management for Merrill and led an online demonstration from COBE.

    During the demo, he showed a hypothetical couple with a brokerage account who, after meeting an advisor, wanted to open five more accounts with the company, including a CMA account, an IRA, a joint bank account and a custody account.

    As a customer partner, Vuolde simply selected the account types from a menu and was able to combine them into a single account opening process. This automated workflow enabled the user managing the procedure to easily answer what they could with existing data or information and initiate a collaboration request with the client if something was missing.

    Performing the same operation years ago would have required a stack of paperwork sent to the customer by mail or courier with sticky notes indicating that additional information or signatures were required. While newer digital iterations had simplified this process, it was often still isolated and form-based (even when it was digital).

    At the end of the action, the customer’s employee (or another employee) sees a replay that summarizes everything that has been completed so far.

    Collaboration requests can come from advisors or customer representatives who may need additional information or know that the customer would like to be more involved.

    To initiate such a collaboration, all that is required is a message to the customers via the specified e-mail address or via the platform if they are registered. It is also important that customers now have a single ID for their asset, broker and bank accounts. It should be noted that when collaborating, employees and customers see the same view in the user interface with the same data fields.

    COBE was developed with a responsive design, meaning it is available on a smart tablet, smartphone or desktop computer.

    This is just the latest in a year-long development rollout from Bank of America Merrill Lynch to their advisors and clients. In August 2020, the company unveiled its Personal Wealth Analysis technology, which combines financial planning and asset management functions and processes into a single experience. And most recently, in March, the company launched its Digital Wealth Overview, which consists of automated, personalized, interactive video presentations created for individual clients.


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