$1B Merrill team goes indie for tech freedom

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A Merrill Lynch team managing $1 billion in assets is going independent to exercise more control over the digital tools they offer clients.

The Frederick, Maryland-based team formerly known as The Will Group at Merrill has rebranded as RS Will Wealth Management, an independent firm affiliated with Kestra Financial.

Along with increased personalization in investment strategies and Kestra’s business consulting, technology was a significant factor in going independent, says Paul McArthur, an advisor and partner at RS Will.

“First and foremost on our clients’ minds is data security,” he says. With Kestra, the RS Will advisors can use third party tools like Smarsh for encrypted and secure emails to clients, and Docusign for eSignature and automated workflows. “We love it instead of [our] old, clunky interface.”

For CRM, the team is deciding between Salesforce and Redtail, he says.

Also important is the freedom to switch between different tools as client needs and preferences change, rather than be locked into a single, prescribed technology platform, McArthur says. Especially with regard to financial planning (RS Will plans to use eMoney) and client portals, some clients may prefer cutting-edge technology while others want more traditional engagement with their advisor.

McArthur spent 10 years as a business and tech consultant with Accenture before becoming an advisor. He says third-party vendors can be more nimble and adaptable than a large financial institution to its user base’s needs.

“We’re very excited about the ability to work on certain tools and also have the option to flip to another tool that we feel can do better for the client,” he says. “We’re automating a lot of our processes, and it frees up more time for us to focus on [clients’] investments and planning, and that’s what we want to do.”

Merrill Lynch declined to comment on the team’s departure.

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