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BofA to Add 160 Merrill Edge Advisors in Southwest

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Bank of America (BAC) said Monday that it planned to add 160 Merrill Edge Financial Solutions Advisors in the Southwest by the end of March 2012 and named several managers to help it grow the business in the market.

Earlier this year, BofA said it was on track to nearly double the number of FSAs serving mass-affluent clients in branches and call centers to more than 1,000 by the end of 2011. It also aims to have about 1,000 small-business bankers serving clients in bank branches by early 2012.

“Preferred customers don’t typically fit the traditional model for a full-service financial advisor or private banker, and so they’re often underserved by financial institutions,” says Linda Shelby, West Division executive, in a press release. “By placing more Merrill Edge FSAs in banking centers throughout Southern California and Arizona, we will be able to offer our Preferred customers in-person attention and support with their saving, investing and financial planning.”

Merrill FSAs focus on investors with between $50,000 and $250,000 in investable assets, which BofA sees as an important market segment and growth opportunity. It now serves such clients in the Southwest through its existing network of about 90 bank-based FSAs and 110 phone-based FSAs in the Merrill Edge Advisory Center in Chandler, Ariz.

Bank of America says it now has more than 8 million mass-affluent (or “Preferred”) customers.

According to the latest Merrill Edge Report, 57% believe it will be harder to save for the long term five years from now compared to today, while 27 percent feel that it will be equally as difficult to save five years from now as it is today. As a result, about one in five (21 percent) reported that they have increased their savings in the last year.

In Los Angeles, 25% of respondents say they are saving more than a year ago.

In Southern California, BofA named the following managers to help it with its FSA growth plans: Gioia McCarthy in North Orange County; Will Smayda in Los Angeles; Nick Givogri in South Orange County; and Debra West in San Diego. Additional regional managers are planned for Phoenix and the Inland Empire area in California.

“With the additions to our management team, we can ensure our FSAs in Southern California and Arizona are effectively bringing expertise closer to customers in our banking centers,” Shelby added.

Merrill Edge introduced a mobile application for iPad, iPhone and BlackBerry earlier this year and close to 500 new no-transaction-fee mutual funds.


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