Merrill Lynch Financial Advisors Utilize New Advisor Alliance Capabilities to Help Ensure Retirement Plans Align to Small Business Owner Needs
NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Bank of America Merrill Lynch today introduced enhancements to its small business retirement plan platform, MLConnect®, to more closely align with small business owners’ evolving challenges and priorities. Newly renamed Advisor Alliance™, since its launch in 2001 the platform has provided small and mid-sized business clients with a unique combination of Merrill Lynch investment services and affordable recordkeeping and retirement plan administration services from a diverse selection of preferred alliance partners. One of the largest and most successful benefit plan platforms of its kind, Advisor Alliance today serves more than 900,000 individuals from more than 40,000 businesses, representing more than $23 billion in retirement plan assets.
Often viewed as the backbone of the U.S. economy, small businesses are responsible for much of the nation’s vitality, ingenuity and new job creation. However, many were hit particularly hard by the recent recession. An April 2010 Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Quarterlysurvey recently examined the values, priorities and concerns of affluent investors and small business owners and found that 75 percent of investors believe small businesses will be a key driver of economic recovery. Across the enterprise, Bank of America is committed to serving the broad financial needs of small businesses.
“The latest affirmation of our commitment to small business owners centers on improvements to our retirement solutions,” said Andy Sieg, head of Retirement and Philanthropic Services for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “Advisor Alliance offers these owners a more flexible, personalized suite of retirement plan and investment services designed to help them simplify their lives and remain focused on their personal and business goals.”
More than 8,000 of our 15,000 Merrill Lynch Financial Advisors work with owners today to serve their small business retirement plan needs. Through their relationship with their Financial Advisor, these business owners also have access to a comprehensive range of financial solutions to address their individual wealth management needs, the broad financial needs of their business and their employees, as well as ongoing product and service innovations – all backed by one of the nation’s largest lenders to small businesses.
Advisor Alliance, for instance, enables Financial Advisors to take a consultative approach when working with small businesses and to implement and continually customize and evaluate the retirement plan that best suits their needs. With flexibility and choice among investment options, business owners can work with their Financial Advisor to design a retirement plan investment menu attuned to their unique objectives. Rigorous investment screening and due diligence conducted by Merrill Lynch Wealth Management investment professionals aid the small business owner in the selection of quality mutual funds suitable for retirement plan portfolios. New and updated Advisor Alliance capabilities include:
Last year, more than half (52 percent) of U.S. employees working for private sector small businesses (those with fewer than 100 employees) did not have access to an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan1. However, financial constraints that have impacted many small businesses’ growth potential during the last couple of years have also caused owners to focus more acutely on their personal financial wellness, as well as that of their employees.
The recent Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Quarterlysurvey asked small business owners what single philosophy best describes why they provide a retirement savings plan to their workers. Among their top responses were: attracting and retaining talented employees (31 percent), fulfilling what they perceive as part of their responsibility in caring for the financial well-being of their workers (25 percent), and helping them save and invest for their own retirement (17 percent). The survey also found that among small business owners who offer their employees access to financial advice to help them manage their retirement planning on an ongoing basis, more than half (52 percent) cited that their employees take advantage of such value-added services in the workplace.
“Although areas of the economy have begun to recover, many small business owners continue to struggle on several fronts, including identifying liquidity options to cover immediate expenses, reevaluating business growth strategies and simply meeting payroll, while also providing benefit plans needed to retain top talent,” said Lyle LaMothe, head of U.S. Wealth Management for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. “We have a long history of delivering solutions specifically designed to help small and mid-sized business owners manage their businesses more efficiently and effectively. Through innovations such as Advisor Alliance, we are continuing this tradition of helping our clients and their employees remain focused on success.”
As more small businesses seek professional assistance from financial advisors to help them move forward and prosper, Bank of America Merrill Lynch earlier this year also introduced a Retirement Plan Referral Network to address their unique needs. The network is made up of Merrill Lynch Financial Advisors with proven experience in serving business owners who have less than $10 million in retirement plan assets. This network was designed to further strengthen the company’s approach to serving the needs of these business owners and their employees, including a significant volume of existing Bank of America Global Commercial Banking (GCB) and Global Corporate and Investment Banking (GCIB) clients seeking a broader range of investment, retirement and other benefit plan services.
1 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor, and “Cerulli Quantitative Update: Retirement Markets 2009” (March 2009)
Affluent Insights Quarterly Methodology
Braun Research conducted the Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Quarterly survey by phone between Mar. 1 and Mar. 16, 2010 on behalf of Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management. Braun contacted a nationally representative sample of 1,000 affluent Americans with investable assets in excess of $250,000, and oversampled 300 affluent Americans in each of 14 target markets including Atlanta; Boston; Charlotte; Chicago; Dallas; Los Angeles; Miami; Minneapolis; Orange County, Calif. (Irvine, Laguna Hills and Newport Beach); Philadelphia; Phoenix; San Francisco; St. Louis; Washington, D.C. The survey also oversampled nearly 200 affluent small business owners – identified as someone who owns a business that generates at least $1 million a year in revenue and has 250 employees or fewer. The margin of error is +/- 3.1% for the national sample and +/- 5.7% for the oversample markets, with both reported at a 95% confidence level.
Bank of America
Bank of America is one of the world’s largest financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small- and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving approximately 58 million consumer and small business relationships with more than 5,900 retail banking offices, more than 18,000 ATMs and award-winning online banking with nearly 30 million active users. Bank of America is among the world’s leading wealth management companies and is a global leader in corporate and investment banking and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions and individuals around the world. Bank of America offers industry-leading support to approximately 4 million small business owners through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients in more than 150 countries. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
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