Merrill Streamlines Their Platform To Deliver UMH for Clients

Last week, I was contacted by a reporter from FundFire looking for my comments on a new feature that Merrill Lynch has implemented as part of their $100 million platform consolidation project.  The project, called Merrill One, is replacing five other legacy programs, some of which have been running for over 25 years.  She was interested in my opinion as to whether the rest of the industry is also moving in this direction and what progress they have made so far. FundFire logo

The new platform is designed to deliver a streamlined experience to Merrill’s 1.4 million clients in managed account programs.  It includes a single set of documents, no matter how many different types of accounts or products the client has as well as a unified fee structure.  If all of this is delivered, it will keep Merrill on the cutting edge of investment advisory technology.

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Beyond the Style Box: SMAs and Model Portfolios

This is a summary of a panel discussion from the MMI 2013 Spring Convention held in NYC on April 22-24.

Moderator: Mark Thomas, SVP, Head of Managed Accounts, PIMCO

Panelists:

How have advisor solutions changed over the past few years?

There’s been an overall shift from advisors being individual product practitioners to the Rep as PM (RPM) model, Tipper stated.  This is primarily due to RPM being better at addressing client demands for more flexibility.  As a result of the Financial Crisis, clients now want absolute return on their portfolios, but advisors would serve them better if they focused on providing customized advice solutions and RPM facilitates this, he recommended.

According to Gaskin, advisors have been migrating away from comparing performance of their client’s accounts against a benchmark, to having more  solutions-based conversations.  To support this, he explained, J. P. Morgan manages money in three ways:

  1. Blended benchmark-based portfolios: where they are trying to achieve a similar return with less risk, or a greater return with equal risk;
  2. Risk-based portfolios: which match a given level of risk that the client is comfortable with;
  3. Outcome-based portfolios: which has been generating the most client interest recently, where they’re trying to solve for challenging problems such as finding income, which is difficult in the current low interest rate environment. Continue reading

Why Haven’t Advisors Embraced Unified Managed Accounts?

This is an overview of a session from the MMI 2012 Tech & Ops Conference held in Jersey City, NJ.

Moderator:

  • Jay Link, Managing Director, Managed Solutions Group, Merrill Lynch

Panelists:

  • Andrew Clipper, Managing Director, Head of Wealth Management Services, NA, Citi
  • John Capelli, Managing Director, COO, Managed Account Advisors, Merrill Lynch
  • Rob Klapprodt, President and Co-Founder, Vestmark

Are UMA/UMH and Rep as PM essentially the same thing?

While there are similarities between the Merrill UMA and Rep as PM programs as far as the end investor is concerned there are important differences, Capelli emphasized. UMA’s can include investment management delivered strategies, for example. Also, while Rep as PM can use mutual funds and ETFs to provide exposure to lower correlation asset classes, such as emerging markets, a UMA can deliver them at a lower cost using individual securities, he said.

If the goal is to create a portfolio across all of an investor’s assets, those assets are usually spread out across numerous legal entities and accounts, Clipper observed. The UMA/UMH structure is the best delivery mechanism for a holistic approach. On the OpenWealth platform, they separate out portfolio administration (i.e. rebalancing, asset location, cash management) from the intellectual property (i.e. the models). The portfolio administration is all handled in a central location, while the intellectual property can be added anywhere along the value chain, he said.

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Has Rep as PM Growth Peaked? (2/2)

This is a summary of a panel discussion from the Money Management Institute’s 2012 Spring conference held in Chicago, IL.  This is part 2 of 2.  You can read Part 1 here.

Moderator: Jay Link, Managing Director, Merrill Lynch

Panelists:
Lorna Sabia, Managing Director, Head of Managed Solutions Group, Merrill Lynch
James Walker, Head of Consulting Group, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
Matthew Witkos, President, Eaton Vance Distributors.  Chairman of MMI.

Is your firm coming out with any new product offerings?

According to Witkos, Eaton Vance has developed a new product that they are calling Exchange Traded Managed Funds.  It is like an ETF since it trades like a stock, except without the transparency of an ETF so that the money manager’s intellectual property is protected.

What is the sponsor perspective on mutual fund velocity?  

No one wants advisors over-trading mutual funds, Walker commented.  Firms look at trade velocity and try to keep it within a certain range, he said.  The industry should be more aware of the difference between selling mutual funds individually versus fitting them into a larger portfolio.  Walker thinks that market velocity won’t be going away any time soon.
Sabia feels that velocity is a complex topic and more data is needed to determine the impact that it might have on a portfolio.  She also stated that she believes that sponsors, advisors and managers all “own” the issue of velocity and everyone should work together to deal with it.

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Has Rep as PM Growth Peaked? (1/2)

This is a summary of a panel discussion from the Money Management Institute’s 2012 Spring conference held in Chicago, IL.  This is part 1 of 2.  You can read part 2 of 2 here.

Moderator: Jay Link, Managing Director, Merrill Lynch

Panelists:
Lorna Sabbia, Managing Director, Head of Managed Solutions Group, Merrill Lynch
James Walker, Head of Consulting Group, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
Matthew Witkos, President, Eaton Vance Distributors.  Chairman of MMI.
Has the growth of RPM programs peaked?  According to Dover Research, five years ago, there was $1.2 trillion of client assets in managed solutions and RPM/RAA combined were less than 30% of that total.  Today, total managed assets have grown to $2.4 trillion while rep-driven programs have increased their share to 40% or almost $1 trillion.

How important is RPM to your firm?

RPM is Morgan Stanley’s fastest growing program, Walker reported, with $560 bil in all advisory programs, $150 bil in RPM globally.  Major change in past few year has been change from individual equities (now 34%) to include ETFs, mutual funds, etc.  This is a great solution for Reps that consider themselves to be active allocators.  Trend: move towards discretion, driven by FAs practice management, customers want outcome based investing.  From a regulatory sense, it’s easier to deliver on fiduciary duty.
Sabbia joined the Managed Solutions Group seven months ago.  At Merrill, RPM is called the Personal Investment Advisory (PIA) program and was launched in 1996, now $105 bil AUM.  Approximately 4,500 FAs leverage the program and they’re segmented into three buckets: it’s their fastest growing segment with a $15.7 bil net increase last year and they’re on track to beat that number this year, she said.

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