Cautious Optimism for Some Merrill Employees

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Employees at Merrill Lynch's sprawling campus in Hopewell, N.J., are cautiously optimistic about their future with Bank of America, saying their skills in investment banking and wealth management are needed by their new parent.

While reporting, "nobody really knows what's going on," one employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Times of Trenton he thought the purchase of Merrill by B of A was "a good thing. I don't think people are worried."

Still, another employee pointed out, "we may also have duplicate services ... So we'll just have to wait to see what happens. I don't think we'll find out anything for at least a couple of months."

On a company conference call, Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis "appeared eager" to make his firm a force in investment banking, the newspaper said. Meanwhile, Sean Maher, an associate economist at Moody's Economy.com in West Chester, Pa., observed that "Bank of America does so many things already, but their brokerage unit is small and underdeveloped for them."

Added Susan Hume, an assistant professor of economics and finance at the College of New Jersey in nearby West Trenton, "It's a pretty good fit, actually, and it's good they did this early on."

"There's consolidation in the financial services industry, so people are going to lose their jobs, but not the way they did at Lehman, where people had to go in over the weekend and clean out their desks," Hume told the Times.

Merrill Lynch employs about 6,000 people in Mercer County, N.J. Its chief executive, John Thain, told the conference call he expects business as usual to continue through at least January, one employee said.

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