Merrill’s Magic Production Bullet?

Merrill’s Magic Production Bullet?

Merrill Lynch is in the process of rolling out a nationwide program that it claims can help reps double their business within 12 to 18 months. The practice-enhancing program, called SuperNova, was recently rolled out in Texas and will soon be launched in California. SuperNova is expected to be available to all Merrill branches by summer.

The program provides a formula that teaches brokers how to pare their client base, how to better serve them and includes ideas on how to focus on high net worth clients.

“This is the way Merrill wants us to run our business,” says a Texas-based broker from the firm.

During SuperNova demonstrations, Merrill brokers were told that if they used the system, they could “double their business in 12 to 18 months,” according to a broker who was at a SuperNova demonstration. After reviewing the details, some reps came away impressed. The rep says, “Brokers who embrace the program can accomplish that.”

Created by Robert Knapp, managing director of Midwest markets in Carmel, Ind., SuperNova suggests—not demands--that brokers trim their client base to 200, contact clients 12 times a year and meet with them four times.

Knapp calls it 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. As part of the program, brokers are given contact-management software, which Knapp describes as “Microsoft Excel on steroids.” The program maintains contact scheduling and client information, and each client will know the day and time their broker will call. The firm wanted to create a “best-practice process,” so it turned to Knapp to get it done.

“The company went out and talked to our best clients, asking them how they want to be contacted and how often,” says a Merrill broker. “The company has taken a consensus about how to best serve the client, then they designed a program that facilitates that.”

Another Merrill broker says, “So now the firm is giving us the tools to serve clients better, get more of those kinds of clients, and if we do, we get paid better for it,” says a Merrill producer. (Merrill enhanced payouts for annuitized business and decreased it for non-annuitized sales.) “Frankly, I think it’s an absolute brilliant program as far as simplicity and strategy [are concerned].”

The firm is telling reps that if they want--and expect--to serve high wealth clients properly, they have to give them a higher-level service—“and with SuperNova, the company is showing us how to implement the process to ensure that it happens,” a rep says.

SuperNova, in its basic form, is a comprehensive review system. “It’s ‘here’s what we want to do, here’s what we’re trying to accomplish here,’” says a rep. “The driving force is not making money for us [brokers]. It’s about servicing our best clients. I believe the firm has given us an invaluable tool to support our practice. First they gave us a new comp plan and now they’re giving us the tools to support it.”

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