|Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan|
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bank of America ( BAC) earned plenty of enemies with its $5 debit card fee , but the company looks to be undeterred in its strategy of courting the affluent and offering less and less to average Joes, confident they'll stay put regardless.
"The high net worth businesses we continue to grow--continue to grow advisors, continue to grow head count," said CEO Brian Moynihan, in a conference call with analysts Tuesday after the bank announced its third quarter earnings results. The bank also continues staffing up to serve what it calls "preferred" customers, which includes small business, Moynihan said. As for everyone else--the so-called "retail" customers, "it is more about optimizing the cost structure," Moynihan said. The bank closed 25-30 branches in the latest quarter, another 60 in the previous quarter and will continue to shrink, according to Moynihan. Still, he clarifies, the retail business is "not small in terms of deposits or small in terms of checking accounts; that keeps growing." Instead, "it's small in terms of infrastructure and cost structure." Moynihan claims Bank of America "leads the industry," in spending as little as possible for the deposits it gathers, and will "continue to drive
costs down," when it comes to serving its retail clients. Since the 2008 crisis, critics of giant banks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo ( WFC), JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) and Citigroup ( C) have urged consumers to pull money out of those institutions and deposit it with smaller lenders. The Occupy Wall Street protests have renewed calls to ditch the big banks, but doing so is easier said than done. Asked about the $5 fee, Moynihan emphasized that customers can avoid them by doing more business with the bank--opening a new credit card account or taking out a home loan, for example. "The fees are to get people to bring more relationships so we're comfortable we'll end up in a good dynamic there," Moynihan said. -- Written by Dan Freed in New York.