Bank of Americas wealth management unit produced strong profits for the fourth quarter of 2013, and did so with fewer advisors.
The banks Global Wealth & Investment Management unit, which includes Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and the ultra-high net worth brokerage U.S. Trust, reported that income rose 34% quarter-over-quarter, from $575 million for the fourth quarter of 2012 to $777 million for the fourth quarter of 2013, up from $719 million in the previous quarter. At the same time the number of financial advisors declined by 300 from the third to the fourth quarters of 2013.
GWIM reported that annual net income rose 32% year-over-year from $2.2 billion for 2012 to $2.9 billion for 2013. Compared to the year earlier period, the number of advisors fell by about 1,100.
Most of the year-over-year decline in advisors came from Merrill Lynch, which fell from 14,915 advisors in 2012 to 13,771 in 2013. U.S. Trust added 23 advisors, rising from 257 in 2012 to 280 in 2013.
Staff cutbacks have occurred company-wide at Bank of America, which reduced the total number of full-time employees by about 5,000 in the fourth quarter. Over the past year, the bank has reduced its staff from 267,190 at the end of 2012 to 242,177 at the end of 2013, a difference of about 15,000. Even so, the bank nearly tripled its profits for the year, growing from $4 billion for 2012 to $11.4 billion for 2013.
Although there were fewer advisors, both wealth management units generated higher revenues. Merrill Lynch reported that its revenue increased $200 million quarter-over-quarter, rising from $3.5 billion to $3.7 billion in 2013, up from $3.65 billion in the third quarter. U.S. Trusts revenue rose from $690 million in the fourth quarter of 2012 to $762 million in the fourth quarter of 2013, up from $730 million in the previous quarter.
Annual revenues were likewise up for both units. Merrill Lynchs revenue increased from $13.7 billion for 2012 to $14.7 billion for 2013, while U.S. Trusts revenue grew from $2.7 billion for 2012 to $2.9 billion for 2013. Overall, GWIMs revenue rose from $16.5 billion for 2012 to $17.7 billion for 2013.
Total advisor productivity rose for GWIM from $900,000 for 2012 to about $1,000,000 for 2013.
GWIMs total client balances rose from $2.1 billion for 2012 to $2.3 billion for 2013. The groups assets under management grew from $698 million for 2012 to $821 million for 2013. Brokerage assets also increased from $960 million in 2012 to $1 billion in 2013.
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