Merrill/BofA to Issue New Phones to Advisors, Other Employees
Merrill Lynch is ringing in the new year with a plan to issue business phones to its more than 14,000 brokers.
The project, which will also affect others within Bank of America’s 208,500-person workforce who use mobile phones for business, will begin to be phased in early next year and is expected to be completed by the end of the third quarter.
Eligible employees will be offered a choice of a bright-red Apple iPhone 11, the 2018-released iPhone XR, or, in the Android family, a Samsung S10e, a Merrill Lynch Wealth Management spokeswoman confirmed. Neither she nor other Bank of America spokespeople would comment on how many phones are expected to be issued nor on the cost of the program.
The bank spent $3.48 billion on information processing and communications costs in the first nine months of 2019, according to its last earnings report. Spokespeople at Apple and Samsung did not return calls for comment on their revenue expectations from BofA.
The plan will give Merrill compliance officials tighter control over email and other messages to and from customers, and will replace the current Good Technology/BlackBerry Work app that most brokers have downloaded onto their personal phones to conduct work-related activities.
Some advisors already use company-issued phones, but most say it’s less convenient to carry two devices, which the new policy will require.
“We are modifying our mobility approach as part of a continuous review of our business practices to better serve our clients and manage risk,” the Merrill spokeswoman said.
Employees will not be charged for the phones, and Bank of America will pay monthly charges, in line with current business practices, she said. She did not elaborate on what apps will be included with the phones.
The decision to offer Apple’s newest iPhone model only in red set off alarms among some Merrill advisors. It suggests a deeper imprint on their business by the bank, whose logo is predominantly red, and could convey too breezy an image to wealthy customers, some said.
But the Merrill spokeswoman said the choice reflects Apple’s participation in the (Product) Red partnership, under which corporations make donations funded by product sales to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Apple’s “Red” project has raised more than $220 million for HIV/Aids programs, according to a company website, and Bank of America has committed to contribute $30 million to the Global Fund from 2014 through 2025.