Monday, October 31, 2011

BofA hires financial advisors in Charlotte

Bank of America Corp. has hired more than 25 financial advisors in the Southeast, including about 10 in Charlotte, its latest move to boost perks for customers who do extensive banking and investment business there.

The Merrill Edge financial solutions advisors will help customers manage their banking and investment needs and stay in better control of their finances, the bank said. The 10 new advisors in Charlotte are the first for the bank's headquarters city, spokesman Don Vecchiarello said - and part of a plan to nearly double the number of financial solutions advisors nationally to more than 1,000 by the end of the year.

The wave of hiring is also part of Bank of America's ongoing effort to better serve its "preferred customers," those with assets of $50,000 to $250,000 - and convince more customers to do more business with the bank.

"Preferred customers have their own set of unique financial needs but have traditionally been under-served by typical retail offerings," said David Giancola, an executive appointed to manage the financial solutions advisor program in the Southeast. "... They'll now have the benefit of personal attention from an accessible specialist."

The push for customers to do more of their banking there there has become central in the debate over the bank's controversial (and soon-to-be-scaled-back) $5 debit card fees: In a conference call with analysts this month, chief executive Brian Moynihan said the fee was a way to encourage people to bring more of their "banking relationships" to the bank.

The bank has taken other steps to better serve its preferred customers, including:

  • Rolling out the Platinum Privileges program, which rewards customers with $50,000 or more in deposit or investment balances with higher levels of service and benefits, including avoiding debit card fees. The program is offered in a dozen states, including North Carolina.
  • Introducing a mobile application and adding about 500 new no-transaction fee mutual funds.
  • Beefing up customer service in select banking centers, through in-person access to investments, small-business and mortgage specialists and the use of technology such as tablet computers.
What do you think about the bank's strategy to attract and keep more affluent customers? Smart business move - or one that might alienate the bank's other customers?