In late June, Merrill Lynch took a step forward in its effort to develop individual broker home pages by signing an agreement with Vignette Corp. of Austin, Texas. Merrill will use Vignette's content management software to create a digital library brokers can use to build a semicustomized Web site.
Last fall, Merrill launched a limited home page trial with eight to 10 reps from the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area. These standardized pages included only a photo of the reps with contact information, placed in the middle of the home page for Merrill Lynch OnLine, the firm's online client service.
"There was some variation allowed [but] a very limited menu of content selections," says Randall Langdon, director of Merrill's digital business development in Princeton, N.J. The objective of the pilot program was to give the firm an idea of what brokers and clients found valuable.
There is no target date for a systemwide rollout. Langdon says there will be one more "stage of experimentation" using the Vignette software to test home pages with a much larger population of brokers. A full rollout won't happen until the firm sees the results, he says.
Meanwhile, A.G. Edwards has announced, through a prepared statement, that it will be "introducing individual Web pages for all of our financial consultants when we roll out our new broker workstations next year."
And A.G. Edwards says it will allow online trading sometime next year as well, but not at discounted rates. The online service "will be offered by our financial consultants within our current pricing structure," the firm says.