BofA headquarters in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo: AP)

Bank of America-Merrill Lynch said Monday that it recruited five financial advisors from Credit Suisse and Wells Fargo with a total of about $1.5 billion in assets and $9.3 million in yearly fees and commissions. It also hired 27 Merrill Edge financial solutions advisors across the Southeast.

Bruce Lee and Jim Hoesley moved to Merrill from Credit Suisse Private Banking, where they managed about $1.2 billion in assets and had yearly production of about $8 million. They joined the Merrill Lynch Private Banking & Investment Group in Chicago as managing directors and private-wealth advisors. Lee will also assume a national leadership role focusing on supporting growth in the ultra-high-net-worth segment, Merrill says.

The team of Chris Sotus, Mike McCullough and Alex Jarman joined Merrill’s office in Savannah, Ga., from Wells Fargo Advisors (WFC) with about $257 million in assets and yearly fees and commissions of $1.3 million. Sotus was named resident director for the office.

A week ago, a five-member team of Merrill Lynch advisors based in New York, led by Harvey Kadden and boasting more than $1 billion in assets and $14 million in yearly fees and commissions, left the firm to join Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

Merrill had 16,722 advisors as of Sept. 30, while Morgan Stanley (MS) had 17,290. As the concentration of assets in the wealth-management industry continues to increase, competition for the top advisors is intensifying, experts say. There is also growing pressure from smaller boutique firms, as well as hefty regulatory and financial issues that broker-dealers–and particularly bank-owned firms–must tackle.  

Also on Monday, BofA-Merrill (BAC) said it added 27 Merrill Edge financial solutions advisors in Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; and Nashville and other nearby cities to its mass-affluent platform. The bank says it is on track to nearly double the number of FSAs in branches and call centers to more than 1,000 by the end of 2011.

“Our new hires come from a diversity of backgrounds,” said David Giancola, Merrill Edge Southeast regional sales manager in an interview with AdvisorOne. All of them, he says, have a Series 7 and are registered representatives. Many of them are CFPs.

“These are experienced brokers,” Giancola explained. “Some come from the Merrill Lynch Wealth Management operations, others from outside firms including banks and broker dealers, and some join the branches as FSAs from the call centers.”

Merrill FSAs focus on investors with between $50,000 and $250,000 in investable assets. “Bank of America sees this segment as a growth opportunity with clientele currently underserved by other firms. We can bring a lot to this clientele that our competitors are not addressing.”

In addition to the 1,000-plus FSA that BofA-Merrill hope to have in place by year-end, the bank also aims to have about 1,000 small-business bankers serving clients in the branch offices of Bank of America by early 2012.