Bank of America Targets Wealthy Florida Clients as Advisers Set to Double

Bank of America Corp.’s wealth-management division is ramping up its efforts to serve rich clients in Florida with a goal of doubling the number of its wealth advisers in the Sunshine State.

The firm’s Merrill unit increased its private-wealth advisory staff by 40% in Florida in recent months, and remains on track to double its coverage in the “medium term,” Andy Sieg, president of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, said Wednesday. There are now 26 private-wealth teams in the state, up from 19 at the beginning of the year, the company said.

Florida, with low taxes and warm weather year-round, has long been touted as a potential second home for Wall Street. The migration of bankers and other financiers out of New York as the Covid-19 pandemic forced employees to work from home -- and showed how much could be done remotely -- spurred a new focus on Florida as an attractive destination.

With two of the country’s three richest ZIP codes found in the state, building out private-wealth operations in Florida makes sense. Bank of America isn’t the only lender bulking up to the south, with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. considering relocating its asset-management arm to a new hub in Florida, Bloomberg News reported late last year.

At Merrill, coastal New England -- including Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island -- is also an area of wealth-advisory growth. The market saw a 120% increase in net new households from the first half of last year, equating to roughly 163 net new households in the region this year, the company said.

The nation’s largest banks have focused on wealth management with new intensity after a banner year for markets boosted the fortunes of the world’s richest people. Bank of America saw client account balances increase to around $4.1 trillion across all its wealth offerings, driven partly by rising markets and the addition of new customers, second-quarter results show.

The company saw revenue across its wealth businesses rise to a record $5.1 billion in the second quarter, up 14% from a year earlier. Clients are also engaging more online and on apps, with digital use by Merill and Bank of America Private Bank clients rising to about 80%, records show.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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