BofA Said to Seek Specialist Sales Staff as MiFID Roils Research

(Bloomberg) -- Bank of America is recruiting to potentially double the size of its specialist sales staff in the U.S. and Europe, according to two people familiar with the efforts.

The bank is looking to add four to six positions -- which help clients act on the firm’s research ideas -- in addition to the six specialist salespeople it already has, said the people, who asked not to be named because the process is ongoing. The hiring push will allow the bank to expand its sector coverage , according to an internal memo.

"Clients are increasingly demanding specialized attention and expertise," the bank said in the memo. The positions are a "critical link between research and equities."

As part of the effort, Sunil Patel is moving from research to consumer specialist sales, and reports to Sean Johnstone, in the bank’s Europe, the Middle East, and Africa equities unit. All positions in the region will report to Johnstone.

Bank of America executives have said over the last few quarters that the firm is concentrating on investing in its equities business. Chief Financial Officer Paul Donofrio told reporters earlier this month that the bank’s efforts to build relationships in those operations helped propel a 17 percent increase in stock trading revenue during the second quarter.

Wall Street’s research houses have been grappling with how to adjust to new regulations governing how clients access and pay for their reports. Ahead of this year’s implementation of the European Union’s sweeping overhaul of financial rules known as MiFID II, Bank of America’s global head of research Candace Browning predicted that the transparency brought by the new rules, along with underperforming manager benchmarks, would likely trigger declining revenue for the research industry.

On July 26, Alliance Bernstein Holding LP, an investment manager and research provider, said its second-quarter research revenue dropped 7.2 percent from the first quarter. On July 25, Evercore Inc. CEO Ralph Schlosstein said he expects MiFID II, along with "the realignment of the research wallet," will take time to resolve, and reiterated the view that spending on research will shrink relative to 2017, which "appears to be happening."

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