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Company: Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc.

Operations: Retail Brokerages

Web site: http://www.merrilllynch.com

Company Overview:
Merrill Lynch offers financial services for private, institutional, and government clients, including mutual fund, insurance, annuity, trust, and clearing services, besides traditional investment banking and brokerage. Merrill Lynch operates in two segments: the Global Markets and Investment Banking Group, and Global Wealth Management. The latter combines Merrill’s Global Private Client group and Global Investment Management units.

Background

For the past 18 years, Merrill Lynch Business Financial Services has been dedicated solely to the small- and mid-size business market, supporting the success of this vital segment of the U.S. economy through high-quality financial management services ranging from cash management, investing corporate cash and financing to online business banking, Visa card services, succession planning and more.

Challenge

Merrill Lynch Business Financial Services (BFS), focusing on partnerships with 200 Business Financial Advisors served by 100 BFS Finance Managers, is committed to securing new clients and retaining current customers. With its focus on the client, the group’s work is based on relationships, valuable service and integrity.

While this group relied on the Internet and other data sources to familiarize itself with a company, it did not have easy access to industry intelligence that outlined the obstacles, opportunities and issues its customers and prospects were facing. Merrill Lynch needed the ability to better understand and anticipate its customer’s needs: What was keeping clients up at night? How could Merrill Lynch help?

Wendell Collins, BFS’ director of sales development, learned about First Research from a Business Financial Advisor who had utilized the solution at a previous bank employer. First Research Industry Intelligence was the missing link in this program’s efforts to fully service its customers and effectively reach prospects.

Solution

Collins and the group found that First Research gives them the industry intelligence needed to actively engage and advise prospective and current customers. First Research Industry Profiles provide the information needed to quickly learn about a target industry and comfortably discuss that industry’s issues. Because each Industry Profile is updated quarterly, the group is always up-to-date on critical industry trends, challenges and opportunities, allowing them to effectively serve their customers and successfully maintain relationships. First Research was the tool needed to better leverage the services available to Merrill Lynch customers.

Many Merrill Lynch employees focus on niche industries and take advantage of First Research to remain updated on a specific sector to stay apprised of and react to issues that are affecting their customers and prospects.

Results

With an initial focus on planning and profiling, Merrill Lynch uses First Research’s Industry Profiles to ensure a strong foundation in the beginning of the client relationship.

“In our business, knowledge is the key to looking smart and better understanding client needs,” said Collins. “We needed access to a concise information source to fulfill this goal – First Research is that source for Merrill Lynch Business Financial Services.”

“When helping companies and clients implement their goals we must understand needs first,” said Collins. “The industry knowledge provided by First Research enables our advisors to ask the right questions, understand the obstacles customers are facing and participate as a value-added advisor in assisting clients in reaching these goals.”

BFS also found that arming its financial advisors in-training with industry intelligence added an extra level of confidence. Trainees could lean on intelligence for smart conversations throughout the sales process, allowing them to focus on truly understanding the products and services available to their customers.

In a recent survey, BFS learned that 74% of its employees use First Research Industry Intelligence in their preparation for prospect calls and more than 50% rely on the information in interaction with current clients.

By staying abreast of an industry through the knowledge First Research provides, BFS found that it could better differentiate itself from its competitors by efficiently anticipating client’s future needs and by playing a creative, active role in problem-solving, leveraging knowledge to maintain relationships.

Key Benefits

  • Anticipate client’s future needs and leverage industry knowledge to maintain relationships.
  • Improve conversations throughout the sales process, allowing trainees to focus on truly understanding the products and services available to their customers.
  • Differentiate from competitors by foreseeing future needs and creatively playing an active role in problem-solving.
  • Leverage industry intelligence to create and/or leverage cross selling opportunities across the company.
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