Being referred to as Financial Solutions Advisors (FSAs), they will expand the Merrill Edge platform that was introduced earlier this year (see “BofA Merrill Lynch Launches Merrill Edge”). The plan is to hire more than 500 advisers, bringing the total number of FSAs to more than 1,000 by the end of 2011. They will be tasked with providing financial solutions and guidance to customers to help them manage their banking and investment needs and stay in better control of their finances.
Preferred customers – those with investable assets of $50,000 to $250,000 – are among the fastest-growing segments in the financial services industry, according to a Merrill Edge report. According to the same report, some of the top priorities for Preferred customers include wanting a better retirement than their parents (85%), having access to both banking and investing solutions (73%), and maintaining the ability to track and manage their money (72%).
“Preferred customers have a complex set of needs and concerns that go beyond what the standard retail bank can offer, but they don’t typically require a full-service financial adviser or a private banker,” said Dean Athanasia, Preferred and Small Business Banking executive at Bank of America. “Adding these skilled professionals lets us actively pursue this growth opportunity and positions us to offer what I believe are best-in-class banking and investment solutions, unmatched access and convenience and the availability of specialists when and where our customers prefer.”
Merrill Edge FSAs will be located in select banking centers nationwide, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Charlotte, and Washington, D.C. They will also be available to offer phone-based guidance through the Merrill Edge Advisory Center.
BofA is introducing other enhancements to better serve the Preferred customers segment, including:
- Specialty stores that provide in-person access to investment, small-business, and mortgage specialists and use the latest technologies, such as video conferencing.
- Continuing to improve the Merrill Edge offering, including the introduction of a mobile application for iPad, iPhone, and BlackBerry earlier this year, and the addition of 481 new no-transaction-fee (NTF) mutual funds.
- Piloting Platinum Privileges, which rewards customers who maintain $50,000 or more in deposit balances with Bank of America or investment balances with Merrill Edge with higher levels of service and comprehensive benefits across their banking and investing needs.
- Hiring 1,000 small business bankers in local communities to provide small business customers with local specialists to address their complex financial needs. Together with the 1,000 FSAs, this will create a 2,000-plus person team dedicated to the more complex needs of Preferred and Small Business customers.