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Merrill Provides Limited Explanation for Last Week’s Tech ‘Slowdowns’

By Miriam Rozen September 10, 2020

Days after Merrill Lynch experienced glitches on its technology platforms, the wirehouse offered only a limited explanation for the disruptions amid high-volume trading.

Some Merrill “customers experienced slowdowns last Thursday for a couple of hours,” when they were using the Merrill Edge platform for self-directed investing clients and the MyMerrill mobile app, according to a company spokesperson. 

The slowdowns were due to “an isolated technology issue,” says the spokesperson, who did not answer multiple requests to elaborate. 

Merrill’s technology issues followed outages experienced last week by other online brokerages, including Robinhood, Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, Vanguard and E*Trade.

Gregory Fields — who was an FA at Merrill from October 2016 until September 2018, according to his LinkedIn profile — believes the problems are linked to Merrill’s use of legacy systems that run parallel with the newer ones. 

“They keep using old legacy systems,” says Fields, who has been an investment advisor at Santa Monica, Calif.-based $1.1-billion RIA Gerber Kawasaki Wealth & Investment Management since he left Merrill.

Veteran FAs rely on the legacy systems most of the time, and when they use the newer MyMerrill app, for instance, they often have trouble and problems arise on the platforms, Fields says.

The Merrill spokesperson stresses, however, that the merging of old and new systems did not cause last week’s slowdowns. 

Fields’ colleague, Gerber Kawasaki CEO Ross Gerber, notes that LPL Financial also experienced slowdowns and outages during high-volume trading days several years back, but the firm has since made improvements. Gerber Kawasaki uses LPL to custody clients’ assets and execute their trades.

“I used to call up [LPL] all the time and complain,” Gerber says. But in the last few years the firm has dramatically fixed the technology by investing in improvements and not building on legacy systems, he adds.

LPL has invested continuously in its technology to differentiate the experience delivered to its advisors and which the advisors, in turn, provide their clients, according to a company spokesperson.

“That commitment is to ensure that our platform is resilient and can manage through times of increased demand. Reaching seven times the normal volume at peak times in 2020, we have been able to provide consistent support to our clients,” the LPL spokesperson says.

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Tags:  Technology , Regulatory/legal issues , Investment strategies , Portfolio management , Marketing , Charles Schwab , E*Trade , LPL Financial , LinkedIn , Merrill Lynch , TD Ameritrade , Vanguard

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