Bank of America Goes Corporate

Bank of America showed its commitment to beefing up its corporate banking activities, announcing seven new hires with four executives setting up shop in Asia.
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Bank of America

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is shifting its demeanor from a ubiquitous, but modest, Southern bank to a major corporate player across the globe.

On Monday, Bank of America announced the latest move in this effort, hiring a team of executives to reshape its corporate banking business. As CEO

Brian Moynihan has indicated, the firm has a renewed focus

in Asia, not just on the consumer end, but other platforms as well.

The firm brought on board seven new corporate-banking hires, four of whom will be located in Asia. They are Charles Alexander, Ivo Distelbrink and Tim Fleming in Hong Kong; Percy Batliwalla in Singapore; Carole Berndt and Wayne Scott in London and Denise Menelly in New York.

The idea is to capitalize on Merrill Lynch's breadth of clients overseas in investment banking and global markets, and cross-sell Bank of America's corporate products. Bank of America has leading positions in the United States, with treasury management and merchant services, for instance, but hasn't done much business abroad.

Paul Donofrio, who heads Bank of America's corporate business, said the new hires "will help drive the business forward" and help the firm provide "a complete range of financial solutions" to hundreds of Merrill clients.

There is undoubtedly room for growth.

Bank of America's corporate and investment banking division brought in $7.8 billion in revenue last year. Results were up significantly from the prior year due to Merrill's contribution, but still a tiny fraction of Bank of America's nearly $120 billion in total revenue. By comparison -- though perhaps not apples to apples --

JPMorgan Chase's

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treasury and securities division brought in $7.3 billion alone, and its investment bank posted over $28 billion in revenue. Together, they represented one-third of the firm's total revenue.

As part of the expansion effort, Alexander will head corporate banking in the Asia-Pacific region. He has spent more than a decade in either that area or Europe for competing banks, like Lehman Brothers and Standard Chartered. Batliwalla will be tasked with growing market share in the region for treasury sales to financial institutions. He built up the same business for JPMorgan over the past six years.

Fleming will head treasury sales to corporate clients in Asia-Pacific, while Distelbrink will oversee treasury sales in Hong Kong. Both were poached from


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. Scott will focus on selling treasurys to financial institutions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Berndt will head the global treasury division for that region.

Menelly, meanwhile, will be working back in New York, where treasury sales are headquartered, to develop strategy and measure performance as chief operating officer of the division.

Bank of America has a long road ahead to shed less profitable clients and assets in the United States, while making a name for itself abroad. Yet its mission is a smart one, and investors appear to have taken note: Bank of America shares topped $18 last week. It's still a long ways from the $35-to-$40 range the stock was trading at pre-Merrill, but it was the first time Bank of America broke through that level in five months.

In recent trading, shares were 1.3% higher at $18.13.


Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York