U.S. Trust Re-Branding Risks Departures

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Bank of America's move to combine U.S. Trust's new brand name with its own poses risks for retaining advisors, executives and clients.

According to the New York Times, the bank plans to re-brand its private wealth business under the new name, "U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management."

Although it's the first time that serial purchaser Bank of America has put anything other than its own name on an acquisition, the combined name might dilute U.S. Trust's upper-crust franchise, according to some sources quoted in the Times story. That's similar to what happened after former parent Charles Schwab took over U.S. Trust in 2000.

Bank of America acquired the exclusive private banking firm from Charles Schwab last November. The $3.3 billion purchase is slated to close early in July. It will reportedly create the largest private bank, managing more than $270 billion for 134,000 clients through a network of about 5,000 private wealth advisers.

The combination already has led to some bumps. Peter Scaturro, the U.S. Trust CEO who had been named to lead the combined private wealth group at Bank of America, resigned in April - reportedly due to a culture clash with the new parent.

While the Bank of America name and business model are associated with serving middle-market customers such as first-time home buyers, U.S. Trust enjoys a strong franchise among long-established, wealthy families.

Although Bank of America executives downplayed such differences, "some recruiters and rivals say there are a lot of U.S. Trust advisers who have left the company or are looking to leave," according to the Times.

On the other hand, Frances Aldrich Sevilla-Sacasa, a long-time associate of Peter Scaturro who is set to replace him as head of the combined private bank, told the Times, "I would love to make this the opportunity for the rest of my career."