The Broker Monitor team was busy this past February as both Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management revamped their public sites. Introduced only weeks apart, both new platforms shed their archaic designs for more contemporary looks. In addition to their sleeker appearances, the sites contain striking similarities that speak to larger trends within the brokerage industry, most notably their adoption of responsive design.
Both firms have clearly positioned their sites for multi-platform use as they naturally adjust to varying screen sizes and incorporate tiled sections catering to touch screens. The focus on tablet and mobile browsing will only continue to grow throughout the brokerage industry as investors, particularly the younger demographic, increasingly access their financials from handheld devices.
Morgan Stanley Mobile Homepage Merrill Lynch Mobile Homepage
The revamped sites notably emphasize each firm’s proprietary research more so than their previous iterations. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, exclusive insights and analyses allow full-service firms to differentiate themselves from competitors and exhibit their expertise to prospective clients. Morgan Stanley improved the visibility and accessibility of its in-house research articles. Merrill Lynch also increased the exposure of its proprietary research by boasting a new customization feature that displays articles based on users’ responses to two assessments, which gauge investing personality, financial goals and personal priorities. Merrill’s customization component is the first of its kind in the Broker Monitor group and should be considered by other firms as a way to personalize the public site user experience.
Morgan Stanley’s new site also now highlights its current employees through images and biographical pages. All full-service firms should take note of this feature since their business models are structured around the client-advisor relationship. Showcasing advisors can help firms differentiate themselves and connect with prospective clients.
The revamped public sites of Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch exemplify the continuing need to adapt to the evolving brokerage industry. While the modifications instituted by Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch may not be suitable for all firms, their commonalities – adaptive design, proprietary research and the humanization achieved by advisor profiling and customizable site features – certainly apply to the industry as a whole. It is only a matter of time before the rest of the industry builds upon these trends, as already evidenced by Vanguard’s inclusion of responsive design in its recent public site navigational revamp.