Bank of America said Tuesday that it planned to nearly double the number of Series 7-financial advisors serving its mass-affluent Merrill Edge client base to more than 1,000 by 2012.
“We now have about 150 financial-solutions advisors in branches and plan to go to 500 by year-end, for a total of 1,000 Financial Solutions Advisors,” in both the branches and call center, said Cary Grace, a preferred sales executive at the Bank of America, in an interview. “This is a huge opportunity for us.”
Bank of America rolled out the Merrill Edge platform in June 2010. It targets both Bank of America-U.S. Trust clients and Merrill Lynch mass-affluent clients, those with between $50,000 and $250,000 in investable assets. Clients in this category can work through self-directed programs online, via the group’s phone-based service center — the Merrill Edge Advisory Center – or in some BofA branches.
In 2010, after it was launched, analysts said it represented a competitive threat to online-brokers like Charles Schwab and a model for how wirehouse firms in general can stem the loss of clients to online rivals.
Bank of America says it now has more than 8 million mass-affluent customers using Merrill Edge with some $67 billion in assets. Assets held in Merrill Edge accounts grew about 19% from the first quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2011.
A growing number of Merrill Edge advisors will be located in banking centers in cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C. They will also be available to offer phone-based guidance through the Merrill Edge Advisory Center.
According to Grace, a growing number of Merrill Edge clients want to visit a branch more frequently than in the past to discuss products or handle more complex transactions like 401(k) rollovers.