Dear Brian Moynihan: could BofA’s and ML’s back offices work together, maybe just a little?

It’s been just over a year since Bank of America closed on its acquisition of Merrill Lynch, but you’d never have an inkling that the two entities have anything to do with each other based on a transaction I conducted this morning.

You two are connected? Really?

So here’s the scenario: I wanted to move some money from a Florida-based BofA checking account to a Merrill Lynch brokerage account.  My name is on both accounts.  The ML folks gave me some instructions to initially have the money go to a New York BofA branch rather than directly to them.  Ok, already a little convoluted, but should be straightforward since this would be a BofA to BofA transfer, right?  Not so much.

Here’s how the subsequent transaction unfolded at a local NYC BofA retail branch:

Time-Pressured Customer Late For Work (me): I’d like to transfer $x from a BofA checking account to a NY BofA account in Merrill Lynch’s name.  Since this is “all in the family”, can we avoid a wire transfer?

BofA rep: No, this will have to be a wire transfer, and there’s a $25 fee.

TPCLFW: But it’s a transfer to your own bank!

BofA rep: Yes, but it involves Merrill, so there’s a fee.

TPCLFW: On the phone yesterday, the 800# people told me the fee doesn’t apply for a BofA to BofA transfer.

BofA rep: I could show you the fee schedule.  Or maybe you could try to get the fee reversed after it hits your account.

TPCLFW: Ok ok, I’m in a hurry.  Let’s just do it.

BofA rep: Please fill out this form.

TPCLFW fills out long form and returns it.

BofA rep: I’ll need your driver’s license and your BofA debit card.

TPCLFW: I don’t have a debit card for this account.

BofA rep: That’s ok, we’ll give you one.

TPCLFW: How will you do that?

BofA rep: Just type your social security # into this screen and we’ll generate a card.

TPCLFW: But I don’t want a debit card.  Can’t I just give you my social as ID and you can use that to proceed with the transfer?

BofA rep: No, because we need a debit card number for this form.

TPCLFW: <sound of teeth grinding>

Lots of typing happens, many forms are printed out, and I’m given a debit card.

TPCLFW: How long until the funds are available in the receiving account?

BofA rep: 24 to 48 hours.

Then I was given the canary carbon copy (I kid you not) of the long form I had filled out, and was asked to have a nice day.  I suppose at that point the rep used the branch’s telegraph to communicate the subsequent instructions to someone else.

This whole exchange took approximately 30 minutes.

Ok, so let’s summarize: I’m moving money from one account to another (both accounts in the same name) within the same umbrella financial institution.  It took 30 minutes to fill out the paperwork, will take 24-48 hours for the transfer to happen, it cost me $25, and it involved my getting a debit card that I don’t want.

Current BofA CEO Brian Moynihan was actually the executive in charge of the BofA/ML integration.  Hoo-boy.  Mr. Moynihan, you’ve still got your work cut out for you.

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