Bank of America ( BAC) took over the top spot among global asset managers following its deal for Merrill Lynch, according to a new survey by a London market research group.

BofA, with $1.5 trillion under management, took over the top spot from UBS ( UBS), according to Scorpio Partnership's Global Private Banking KPI Benchmark 2009. UBS, with $1.39 trillion under management, took second place, followed by Citigroup ( C) in third with $1.32 trillion and Wells Fargo in fourth with $1 trillion.

Charlotte, N.C.-based BofA, which acquired Merrill at the start of the year, maintain the core of its assets under management in the U.S., leaving UBS as the leader in international wealth management, Scorpio says.

In total, assets under management fell 16.7% to $14.5 trillion year over year, according to the survey. Asset levels have fallen a median 15.7% and cost income ratios have risen 13.7%, placing a "huge strain" on private banking and making the next year "a moment of truth" for the industry, Scorpio Managing Partner Sebastian Dovey says in the survey.

"The way through will be an intelligent focus on profitable segments and efficiency drives," Dovey writes. "However, the traditional management tendency for slash and burn in such conditions will be much more damaging in the long term. This is a time for vision and leadership. Our view is firms must now use traditional consumer tools in branding and advertising to reclaim confidence and new business." BofA shares were recently falling 3.9% to $12.15, while UBS shares were off 1.8% to $11.73.
This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.com.

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