Anita Roberts is Vice President of client services and consulting for Merrill Bridge and XBRL. She leads a team of technical accountants, SEC experts and service project managers who are all committed to ensuring that our clients receive best in class service. Anita has been with Merrill for almost 20 years and has spent most of her career leading service delivery teams in Capital Markets and adjacent industries.
We recently sat down with Anita for an interview about how her global team of 250 subject matter experts and service professionals are adapting to changing customer expectations of service delivery in a digital world.
How has Merrill Bridge changed how clients work today?
Over the past few years, the business environment has driven corporations to look for continued efficiency gains in meeting regulatory and compliance disclosures. Merrill Bridge provides clients with a wider range of options in how they work. By using Merrill Bridge, corporations and their users have the power to utilize data already compiled on their internal systems by linking it with Merrill Bridge. This seamless integration increases the overall speed, quality, and control of the disclosure process i.e. instant efficiencies with tangible improvements in the time and steps required. The added benefit is choices in the level of control. Clients determine how much they want to do themselves and how and when they need hands on assistance from their Merrill experts. For example, while all Merrill Bridge clients control and manage their own content, many clients ask the Merrill experts to produce the XBRL and / or complete the live filing.
Can you give a recent example of a change in Merrill Bridge that has enhanced the client’s experience?
One of our most recent examples is the new PowerPoint to HTML functionality in Merrill Bridge. Companies are required to file Form 8-K documents with the SEC which often contain PowerPoint presentations with charts and graphs containing data linked from Excel. Now, the process is entirely automated using Merrill Bridge – clients can upload the PowerPoint with the linked data to Merrill Bridge and the application will convert to SEC-complaint HTML within seconds.
How did your team adapt to the changes in service delivery?
Merrill’s service teams have a strong history of being a trusted partner working with our clients. Merrill Bridge has enhanced this in many ways because we are working in the same tool to achieve a common goal. Our service and consulting teams really have become an extension of the client working group and celebrate every successful outcome as much as our clients do.
How has the Merrill Bridge Community advanced service delivery to clients?
Just like our actual service offering ‘Merrill Bridge’, service delivery continues to evolve in the digital world, and we need to continue to adapt to meet changing expectations. We know our clients work and learn differently so we need to be very open to changing our approach as we strive to be the best business partner for our clients.
In a world where everyone uses search functionality to gain knowledge, the Merrill Bridge Community provides easy access to critical regulatory and disclosure information with a wide range of learning articles and videos. A new client user can learn the basics of how to use Merrill Bridge as well as highly detailed information on SEC Filing and XBRL requirements.
Merrill still provides a wide range of training and learning opportunities in addition to the Merrill Bridge Community, including onsite group or 1.1 training and continued access to experts within Merrill.
What does this mean for the future?
Our #1 goal is to provide stellar service to our clients which includes providing a deep level of technical expertise and guidance. We continue to invest in our people who work directly with our clients, however, we also anticipate a growing need for additional online resources. The volume of regulatory changes emanating from the SEC and other global regulatory bodies, such as ESMA (European Securities and Markets Authority), as well as XBRL US data quality standards, will drive the need for more online resources, in addition to the new capabilities and use cases planned for Merrill Bridge.
We have had tens of thousands of visits to the Community since the launch less than a year ago and, for the reasons above, are placing additional emphasis on this learning channel in the coming year. Additionally, we continue to solicit feedback from our clients. The only real way to stay ahead is to continue to anticipate shifts in clients’ preferences and make use of emerging technologies to improve our existing products.
Toppan Vintage recently acquired Merrill Corporation’s Capital Markets and Compliance business, to include Merrill Bridge. We will be unveiling our rebrand to Toppan Merrill in 2019 and providing updates on promised technology investments throughout.