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Merrill Lynch Rolls Out MAX, Docupace Acquires PreciseFP, and benjamin Gets Schwab Alerts

Thundering Herd advisors have a sophisticated new mobile app, while Docupace acquires onboarding application PreciseFP and other news.

Merrill Lynch rolled out its MAX application this week. Short for mobile advisor experience, the iOS-only application (it runs on both iPhones and iPads) is the latest iteration of the firm’s ongoing technology renaissance and ever evolving “client engagement system.” In fact, the firm was a 2021 Industry Awards winner in the Disruptor Technology category.

“With the MAX app, you can almost think of using the iPhone as a remote control,” said Michael Lestina, who manages mobile, social and collaboration strategy for the Global Wealth Management line of business within Merrill Lynch.

During a demo, Lestina said everything on the mobile application is available on an advisor’s workstation, but MAX allows an advisor to bring in everything from a client’s brokerage, banking and external balances to the full power of what is available on Merrill’s version of Salesforce.

“We can see goals, pull up progress to goals in real time with the client,” he said, “and many of the clients want to return to in-person meetings and want to meet outdoors these days given what is going on with the pandemic.”

Perhaps just as important for some advisors, the application also enables them to see their own practice “and where you are tracking on any number of parameters,” Lestina said.

This is just the latest rollout at Merrill. In May the firm launched its Collaborative On-Boarding Experience, or COBE for short, which streamlines and fully digitizes client account opening and onboarding. In March, Merrill rolled out its Digital Wealth Overview, which comprises personalized, interactive video presentations, three to four minutes long and narrated by Erica, Bank of America’s virtual assistant. August 2020 saw the introduction of Personal Wealth Analysis, which melded together financial planning and asset management feature sets.

For now, the MAX application is locked down to the iPhone 11 and iPads running an equivalent version of iOS. And it is accessible only through Merrill Lynch employee phones, not personal devices, for security reasons. When asked about advisors being able to access the app in their cars via Apple CarPlay or CarSync, Lestina and Kabir Sethi, head of digital wealth management for Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, said that these were not supported for security reasons (“you don’t want your client’s full net worth out on public display for the SUV next to you”).

Nonetheless, the application provides Thundering Herd advisors with a handheld level of mobile access and client insight that most advisors in the independent channel can, as yet, only dream about.

Sethi explained that with the current integrations of its Erica AI-based assistant as the foundation for its smart search, mobile devices can start to surface client insights as though an advisor were in the office at a workstation.

“You can see how this gets at much more than just an app, it gets you closer to a [true] personal digital assistant,” said Sethi.

PreciseFP Acquired by Docupace

Cloud-based document management and digital operations provider Docupace announced its acquisition of digital account aggregation and onboarding provider PreciseFP. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In 2010, two years after launch, PreciseFP co-founder Don Whalen likened the application to an online universal client data entry form, “a replacement for the paper-based gathering of data from clients.” He and partner Sebastian Skwarek built the application because they simply could not go on collecting data the old-fashioned way on paper.

Now, a decade later, the pair has integrated with dozens of other wealth management-related third-party applications and recently took home a 2021 Industry Award for Client Onboarding/New Account Opening.

The Docupace Platform, which is used by both IBDs and RIAs and is known for its automation, workflow and operations processing tools, will be adding PreciseFP’s client-facing capabilities to the platform. The acquisition was announced at the Riskalyze Fearless Investing Summit in Palm Springs, Calif.

Growth equity investment firm FTV Capital acquired a majority interest in Docupace in April 2020. At that time FTV appointed David Knoch, former president of independent broker/dealer 1st Global, as the tech company’s new CEO.

benjamin Can Now Integrate Schwab Advisor Center Alerts

Schwab Advisor Center alerts have now been integrated into the AI-driven business support system benjamin. Advisors who custody with Schwab will be very familiar with the alerts, which ping them with the updates regarding client accounts and required actions. For advisors using both Schwab and benjamin, the news means the alerts can now be seen from within the automated workflows that benjamin supports.

With the new alert integration, benjamin can now automatically create a relevant new task in an advisor’s CRM, and in turn associate it with the right contact for the alert based on the unique data in it, while automatically sending a communication to both the advisor and the client services staff associated with that contact. benjamin can also send these communications via text message as well.

Cloud-based benjamin, which is hosted on AWS, was launched two years ago by co-founder and CEO Matt Reiner and also was a 2021 Industry Awards winner for Business Support Systems | Workflow Automation.

It has now automated a few hundred different tasks, from the more mundane aspects of prospecting and client interactions like meetings, to ongoing relationship management.

The benjamin platform has integrations based on a full suite of API access with the three major custodial platforms (including TD Ameritrade, now owned by Schwab). There are also API integrations with many individual providers, including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Redtail and Junxure, in the CRM sector, as well as Orion and SS&C Black Diamond in the portfolio reporting sector and DocuSign for e-signatures. When it comes to office productivity, there are integrations with the Microsoft Outlook and Google Docs suites.

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