Bank of America Feeds the Bull Adding More Wealth Managers to Merrill

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Despite rumors on Twitter last week that Bank of America would be announcing HSBC-sized layoffs soon, the Merrill Lynch Wealth Management side of BofA's business continues to grow, bringing new new financial advisors into its ranks of wealth managers.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has announced the hiring of six financial advisors from a slew of competitors. The group managed a combined $813.2 million and had trailing-12-month production of about $5.5 million, says Reuters.

The wealth management professionals hail from the likes of Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, and UBS.

The hires represent no less than "a continuing trend at Bank of America Merrill Lynch to expand its wealth management business," Investment News reports.

BofA spokeswoman Selina Morris told eFinancialCareers that the bank has hired 603 people to that end during the second quarter. That figure includes the Merrill "Edge" group of FSAs providing guidance to those with investable assets of $50,000 to $250,000, Morris said in a previouis eFinancialCareers interview.

Outside of Edge, BofA will have about 1,800 individuals in its advisor training program by year end, Morris says.

BofA has been adding liberally to its adviser ranks during the past 18 months, while Morgan Stanley Smith Barney has apparently been cutting down its brokerage force.

The latest hires come just weeks after of Bank of America's second-quarter report of mortgage-related losses totaling a horrendous $8.8 billion. The losses had some thinking that BofA-which already cut dozens of positions in equity sales and trading back in May-would continue to lay off sales and trading staff. On the other hand, the bank said its advice-giving effort had been paying off in significant ways during the latest quarter, even impacting other units for the better.

"Referral volumes remained strong during the second quarter with referrals from Global Wealth and Investment Management to Global Commercial Banking up 75 percent from the prior quarter, and referrals from Global Commercial Banking to Global Wealth and Investment Management up 23 percent from the prior quarter," the company stated when BofA published second-quarter earnings last month.

Seeking client-facing roles

At the time, the bank emphasized it was hiring more and more client-facing advisors, with the ranks of its Global Wealth and Investment Management client-facing associates increasing for the eighth consecutive quarter.

The latest hires include all of the following:

· Tony Murphy and Lewis Matthews joined Merrill's Walnut Creek, California, office from Wells Fargo Advisors. The two managed $342.3 million in assets and generated $1.2 million in revenue during the past year.

· Also joining Merrill are the former MSSB team of Bernard Orbach, Erik Vatter and Matthew Groff, who together oversaw $225.7 million in client assets and generated $2.1 million of commissions and fees. The team hails from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

· Michael Borza joined Merrill's Virginia Beach, Virginia, office from UBS Wealth Management Americas, where he managed $174.3 million in assets and produced $1.01 million of revenue.

· Merrill has also hired Morgan Stanley Smith Barney's James Wolslager in Austin, Texas, adding a broker with $70.9 million in assets and $1.15 million in production.

The total number of Merrill Lynch advisors was estimated at 16,241 at the end of the second quarter, but MSSB still has the largest brokerage force in the country, with 17,638 advisors in all, according to Investment News.

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