The Merrill Edge Guided Investing is one of the newest robo-advisors on the bloc.
Better known as MEGI, this robo-advisor is launched by the Merrill Group in 2017.
What’s really special about this robo-advisor is both the rate and the pace of performance.
Along with the automated investing, this robo-advisor also enables active account management.
It can, therefore, go ahead and invest in instruments like Index ETF and also monitor portfolio allocation.
So, this combination enables maximizing profit along with cutting down losses.
Therefore, the core concept is boosting investor confidence a notch higher with this phenomenal innovation.
A broad review of the host of customer feedback on this robo-advisor highlights many aspects.
There are undeniably some distinct advantages.
But there is another side of the coin too.
This is also a robo-advisor with a higher degree of management fees.
For the enhanced services, it goes without saying that you need to shell out extra.
But, it is not so easy to review an offering from one of the best known financial institutions globally.
The Merrill Edge Guided Investing has been carefully crafted by the Merrill Group for a superior client experience.
It specializes in providing customized information with reference to an improved user experience.
But the question is does that justify the higher management fees.
Especially in a scenario where you have a host of robo-advisors willing to charge nothing, does this justify?
The question is whether MEGI is worth the additional expenses involved.
The answer can’t be that simple.
You need to explore every element of the product comprehensively.
That alone will help you understand the pros and cons properly.
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Before forming an opinion, it is important to understand the product properly.
What exactly is the Merrill Edge Guided Investing?
How is it any different from the rest of the offerings?
What justifies higher pricing?
What Is MEGI?
The Merrill Edge is one of the world’s oldest brokerages.
Launched in 2010, you can trace its history back to 1914.
Needless to mention, this makes the Merrill Edge one of the most respected names in the world of investment.
On the face of it, the MEGI is just like any regular robo-advisor.
Your portfolio is managed by professionals and in sync with investment software.
Once you sign up with the MEGI, all you have to do is provide funds at regular intervals.
The rest of the responsibility is taken care of by Merrill Edge.
It tackles everything from your initial portfolio allocation to regular rebalancing.
Your profit, in many ways, becomes MEGI’s worry.
Investors can practically sit back and relax while the MEGI manages their investment account.
This is a very versatile robo-advisor with multiple uses.
You can look at using the Merrill Edge Guided Investing for your retirement savings or even general investment.
On an average, commonly used robo-advisor strategies are employed.
These are time-tested strategies that are being employed by robo-advisors across the world.
The approach is to make sure that the investor can relax about his investments.
The question is how this guided investment is better than an average robo-advisor.
The Merrill Lynch legacy is surely a great source of solace but just that alone can it justify the higher fees?
That needs a careful comparison and assessment of all the available features.
That alone will help you take a call on the exact extent of its utility compared to others.
How Does the MEGI Work?
Well, we know that the Merrill Edge Guided Investing does not use the conventional algorithm.
There are some proprietary computer software with a definitive Merrill Lynch edge that adds to its success.
But the point is how can you assess the true potential till you know how this robo-advisor works?
So, here is a quick rundown of the operational matrix of this robo-advisor.
When you compare it with its peers, on the face of it, there are some similarities in the basics.
You sign up for it and fill in your investment objectives.
You give details of the duration of time you want to invest and your relative risk tolerance.
There is also a special questionnaire to customize your risk appetite.
The broad investment style is also similar.
Most of your funds are put in index ETFs which are low-cost.
Primarily these ETFs belong to Vanguard and iShares.
In-house Merrill Lynch funds are hardly used.
So the risk of so-called promotional investments is much limited.
As I already mentioned, the Merrill Edge Guided Investing use a combination of software-enabled trading strategies with human interference.
That ensures that they can account for machine-related misses with human intervention.
This makes their investment strategies all the more worthwhile.
So broadly this is not a passive portfolio.
On the contrary, it is an actively managed portfolio.
The Merrill Edge management team keeps an active tab on various policies and functionalities.
This is what makes them very sensitive to even the minor changes in the market.
Moreover, MEGI is perceptive about potential tactical changes in strategy.
The portfolio management team keeps making adjustments as per changing conditions.
Unlike conventional robo-advisors, investors get an opportunity to outperform the market.
The Merrill Edge therefore really gives you a meaningful edge.
Satisfactory Investment Approach
When I am comparing robo-advisors, the investment approach is a key consideration.
It is one of the key considerations while you are looking for an investment advisor.
As a result, this is a primary consideration even for robo-advisors.
Your ultimate extent of losses or profitability, and the true potential of the investment depends entirely on it.
The kind of guidance that you get, the degree of assistance and the quality of trade are closely linked to the investment approach.
It goes on to decide the kind of portfolio that you may end up with finally.
The Merrill Edge Guided Investing clearly scores an edge here.
It provides a definitive investment quality with an eye on details.
The Guided Investing aims at offering clear understanding to the clients.
So, there is no scope for any type of discrepancy in the core understanding.
It is a transparent and practical market assessment.
Once clients have a clear understanding, they can be reasonably confident about the quality of the portfolio.
Though just like any other robo-advisor, most of the portfolio is based on computer programs; the Merrill Edge often makes a difference.
Even for clients, it offers them considerable peace and satisfaction in terms of what they can expect or can’t.
The fact that the Merrill Lynch brand has a legacy of effective money management adds to the goodwill.
It further reinstates the quality of the service and investment advice that they can expect.
Clients have to fill a questionnaire about the relative risk appetite.
This can often make a huge difference.
The robo-advisor then rebalances the portfolio as per this new risk tolerance requirement.
This will differ from person to person.
Therefore, despite the computer programmed investment approach, there is a reasonable degree of customization.
This helps in creating a better portfolio.
Key Features of the Merrill Edge Guided Investing
The minimum account balance for MEGI accounts is fixed at $5000.
You can choose from a range of accounts that offer you different types of advantage.
- Solo 401(k)
- Traditional IRA
- Roth IRA
- Rollover IRA
- SEP IRA
- SIMPLE IRA
Some of the most important features include
There is not pre-decided period for the portfolio rebalancing.
The MEGI decides on rebalancing on the basis of the portfolio requirement and existing market conditions.
It reads the existing market conditions in an effective fashion and then proceeds with the rebalancing process.
The MEGI is in sync with the growing needs of the time.
They have a dedicated mobile app that enables a smooth access to their account.
Users can track their balance and portfolio allocation with the help of this app.
If you have accounts with the Bank of America, you can use the same app to track that too.
This is available for both Android and iOS.
Therefore, the interface is compatible with most available phones and helps in reaching a larger number of users.
That helps in improving the overall acceptance of the app and the MEGI service.
Use of Uninvested Cash
MEGI also tries to offer maximum value for the uninvested cash.
They put it in a Merrill Lynch Direct deposit account and you can earn interest on it.
In this way, you get better value for this cash too.
However, the MEGI does not have any provision for Tax-Loss Harvesting.
When you compare it with other robo-advisors, this is one factor that surely makes the sheen less bright than its closest competitors.
In terms of efficiency, this is perhaps one factor that impacts its overall success rate to an extent.
The MEGI Fee Structure
Now let us discuss the most talked about irritant about the Merrill Edge Guided Investing.
This is undeniably the fee structure.
On a minimum account balance of $5000, they charge 0.45% a year.
This is a blanket limit on any type of account balance and kind.
Normally this fee is charged monthly and has to be deposited in bulk.
But that is not all, investors have to pay a transaction fee as well
This ranges between $0.01 -0.03 on every $1,000 principal.
The ETFs that they invest in also have some intrinsic charges.
That said, they do not levy any type of trading fees.
However, in the hope of attracting more customers, they now have a bonus scheme.
On every new account, they are now offering a special bonus payment.
- $20,000 account gets $100 bonus
- $50,000 account gets $150 bonus
- $100,000 account gets $250 bonus
- $200,000 account gets $600 bonus
This bonus is paid to brokerage account as well as selected IRA accounts like Roth IRA, traditional IRA, Roth and rollover IRA.
Sole proprietor SEP IRA accounts also qualify for this bonus payment.
You have to make sure you need to maintain the account balance at these levels for at least 90days.
Now if you compare it with some of the peers, this is decidedly higher.
You have Options that have no minimum account balance provision and then there are somewhere there is no investment fee either.
Moreover, there are no promotional offers like free 1-year membership and the like.
It is, therefore, surely a concern that the MEGI fee structure is comparatively more expensive.
But the question is does it justify paying this additional amount for the advantage of human intervention in trading?
Does the human touch to this pre-programmed rob-advisor deserve the premium?
Seamless Integration for Investors
When you associate with the Merrill Edge Guided Investing, you will be able to integrate a lot easier with the overall banking group.
The fact that BankAm is a full-service bank often helps customers in a wide range of banking opportunities.
Moreover, there are no multiple formalities for this.
Signing for a membership for one automatically helps in getting access to the rest.
That means investors don’t have to undertake multiple transactions.
If you consider time is money, this helps to a large extent.
In short, the interface is so well integrated with the rest of the service, that it becomes a seamless operating module.
That always gives investors an edge.
They don’t have to constantly jump from one window to another.
Moreover, Merrill’s long experience in managing finances also adds a glint of perfection to this integration.
Banking On the Merrill Edge
The Merrill Edge Guided Investing is a lot about unabashed reliance on the Merrill name.
With the MEGI account, investors have widespread access to a plethora of BankAm and ML services.
These undeniably make the membership very special.
The Merrill Edge is one of the better known full-service brokerages.
It gives investors access to self-directed investment opportunities.
This is in addition to the automated robo-advisor service that they have applied to.
At $6.95 per trade, you can get access to the extensive Merrill Lynch library.
Needless to mention this gives you a brilliant to not just invest but also enhance your investment knowledge.
As BankAm is a full-service bank, you also get the option of a savings or checking bank account and other associated services.
Accessibility is also a huge advantage.
Being one of the biggest banks in US, they have a presence in most small and big cities across the country.
They have about 2000 financial centers across United States that are ready to offer assistance.
You will easily spot a Merrill Edge consultant in most of these.
That means wherever you may be, you are never too far away from Merrill Edge Consultants.
The superior customer service is a decided advantage for both beginners and newcomers.
Moreover, with easy access to a full banking service, you can easily move money with relative ease.
You don’t have to log onto any of the accounts separately or wait for customer representatives to get back to you.
There is someone ready to help 24×7.
This superior customer care also makes this a profitable opportunity to invest in.
By creating a simple MEGI account, you literally get access to a Pandora’s box of opportunities and convenience.
That is not the case with many less expensive robo-advisors.
Therefore, when you are reviewing the Merrill Edge Guided Investing, you have to pay attention to several factors.
First the pros of the deal, of course
It is a seamless and an extremely well integrated robo-advisor platform
The human interference adds a touch of excellence to the overall efficiency levels
It does not follow convention investment algorithms for undertaking trade.
The automated portfolio rebalancing enables you to optimize your profit margins
This service also ensures that you have more opportunity to outperform the markets.
Users also get relatively easy access to the traditional banking and other financial facilities of the Bank Of America Merrill Lynch Group.
But there are some cons associated with this arrangement too.
The management fee at 0.45% per year is quite high.
Users have to pay this upfront as advance.
They do not have any type of tax loss harvesting facilities.
The minimum account balance required is also much higher at $5000.
But though the fees structure looks high on the face, there are many associated clauses.
Don’t forget that you get active portfolio management with MEGI.
The lack of tax loss harvesting provision too is a common concern for most robo advisors including MEGI.
In fact, if you already have an account with Bank Of America, the Merrill Edge Guided Investing may be one of the best options.