One of Merrill Lynch's major initiatives in the coming year will be to continue to attract clients to the firm's expanded banking service, known as Beyond Banking. As firms seek to grab an increasing percentage of a client's assets, they have expanded beyond the usual brokerage offerings, and Merrill has made significant investments in its banking products. The goal, according to sources at Merrill, is to build a deeper relationship with clients — and their assets. Merrill clients hold an estimated $130 billion in banks outside of the firm.
Being a brokerage, of course, the firm is goosing this initiative with a major sales contest that rewards advisors for bringing in assets to these accounts and opening accounts. The contest was launched just before the end of 2002 and continues through June. Financial advisors receive a varying amount of credits for opening new accounts (based on length of service at the firm) with the winners receiving Visa reward points. The firm is beginning direct mailings in January to Merrill clients and brokers will have to follow up with phone calls. “They're doing this because it's sticky,” says one Merrill rep. “If you have bank deposits here, you're going to do more business here.”
For clients with at least $100,000 in assets in a cash management account at Merrill, there is no fee for the account, and ATM withdrawals are reimbursed to a certain point. A client, however, cannot open a banking account without an accompanying cash management account. Merrill officials would not comment on the impending introduction of the system.