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Merrill Lynch Will Allow Advisors to Text Clients

The broker/dealer plans to begin rolling out the new service to advisors this month.

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management advisors will soon be able to text clients without fear of the compliance department.

The broker/dealer announced Thursday that it will add text messaging as part of a suite of new digital capabilities available to its almost 15,000 advisors. Along with a social media program and newly available custom advisor websites, text messaging will enable the firm’s clients and advisors to get in touch with one another through what are now ubiquitous means of communicating. Customers are also increasingly comfortable with digital solutions—or expect it—when it comes to their banking and finances.

Merrill Lynch partnered with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based CellTrust, which will manage, track and deliver the messages. The CellTrust SL2 Blackberry is much like other phone or text message mobile apps. Advisors with Apple or Android devices download it, log in and can message away. All messages are time- and date-stamped, tracked, logged and archived, the brokerage said.

CellTrust allows users to assign a separate Mobile Business Number, enabling them to receive calls and messages from clients without having to share their personal cellphone number. Some advisors might have 150 clients or more and don’t want to share their personal number with everyone (or maybe anyone).

Companies that use the CellTrust service can choose their own policies regarding the communications and there is some separation between personal and business data. For example, CellTrust will only archive data associated with their business phone number, rather at the carrier level or through device syncing, which would archive everything on a phone.

Advisors will also be able to send text messages to clients through a web interface with secure access to corporate email, calendars and their contacts.

“Texting is just our latest investment in building our state-of-the-art digital capabilities—so that we can serve our clients when, where and how they want,” said Andy Sieg, head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

Morgan Stanley already has infrastructure in place that allows its advisors to call and text clients, a spokesperson for the company said. The Morgan Stanley Messaging app integrates with an advisor’s schedule and communication through the app is archived and surveilled by the brokerage. Morgan Stanley advisors also have access to pre-approved content for LinkedIn and other social media, but can submit their own content to be approved. The brokerage also offers website templates to its advisors which they can use to customize their individual websites.

Wells Fargo is currently exploring ways advisors and clients can text one another, a person familiar with the matter said. Like Merrill Lynch, the brokerage has an existing social media program that enables advisors to use LinkedIn, LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Twitter. It is also currently piloting a Facebook program. The person also said advisors using social media platforms through Wells Fargo’s program have garnered more than 1.6 million followers.

UBS could not be reached to comment on whether their advisor network had a similar tool for calling or texting clients.

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