Tuesday, February 4, 2014

BofA looks to hire 200 more small-business bankers

Bank of America on Tuesday said it plans to hire more than 200 small-business bankers this year as it sees an increase in loans to such businesses.

The bank said Tuesday it extended $10.9 billion in new loans to small businesses last year, a 26 percent increase over 2012. Originations to small businesses have risen on a year-over-year basis for 36 months in a row, the bank said.

In a statement, Anna Colton, national sales executive of small-business banking for Bank of America, pointed to a study by the bank last fall that said small-business owners who meet with their banker at least three times a year are more optimistic that their revenues will increase over the next 12 months.

The hires come as Bank of America and other big U.S. banks are under pressure to increase profits at a time of sluggish revenue gains. Low interest rates and slow loan growth are among factors hindering banks' abilities to boost revenue, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a bank regulator, said in a recent report.

Banks have shed personnel and trimmed branches to bring help expenses down. Bank of America cut 25,073 jobs last year, bringing its payroll to 242,117 as of the end of December, according to a securities filing.

Lending to small businesses remains challenging. Optimism among small businesses remains below prerecession levels, according to survey findings released last month by the National Federation of Independent Business. The group’s chief economist said that while some segments of the economy are showing improvement, such as manufacturing and construction, consumer spending has lagged.

It is not known how many of the 200 hires will be made in Charlotte, where the bank is headquartered. The bank said it has not determined the markets where it will make the hires. In a press release, the bank said the additional bankers are planned for its "key" markets.

The bank said it has approximately 25 small-business bankers in North Carolina, including 10 in the Charlotte area. In South Carolina, the count is about 10.

Bank of America began hiring small-business bankers after it created the position in 2010. So far, the bank has hired 1,000 such bankers across the country. Some of the bankers visit potential customers at their offices. Others are stationed in branches, where CEO Brian Moynihan has been adding specialists, such as those in mortgage lending.

The bank's small-business group falls under its consumer and business banking division, which is based in Charlotte. Robb Hilson, who heads the small-business group, is based in Miami.