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BofA Posts Pop in Q3 Profit, Higher Wealth Management Asset Fees, Net Gain of 475 FAs

Bank of America’s earnings shot up to $6.2 billion in the third quarter, versus a net loss of $7.3 billion in the year ago period. Revenue was up 6 percent to $28.7 billion.

“The third quarter’s results reflect several actions we took that highlight our ongoing transformation toward becoming a leaner, more focused company, said CEO Brian Moynihan. “The diversity and depth of our customer and client offerings provided some resiliency in a very challenging environment.”

Bank of America’s global wealth and investment management division reported net income of $347 million for the quarter, up 29 percent from a year ago, and accounting for about 6 percent of the bank’s total earnings. Revenues for the third quarter totaled $4.23 billion, up 9 percent versus last year’s third quarter, on higher asset management fees, net interest income and transactional activity. Asset management fees rose to a record $1.56 billion, up 17 percent versus a year ago on higher market levels and higher client flows into long-term assets under management.

GWIM added 475 net financial advisors in the quarter (including 444 financial advisors, the majority of whom are trainees, plus 31 Merrill Edge advisors). That makes it the bank’s ninth consecutive quarter of increases in “client facing” associates (this is a catchall for advisors and sales associates at Merrill and U.S. Trust). Those new FAs bring total headcount to 16,700, up from 16,200 in the second quarter and 15,500 in the third quarter of last year. Trainees now total around 1200, says the firm, around 7 percent of the thundering herd.

Meanwhile, annualized revenue per financial advisor slipped a little bit for the quarter to $854,000 from $893,000, which reflects the increase in trainees, says a Merrill spokesperson (Merrill Edge advisors don't figure into this calculation because they don't work on commission). Pre-tax margins for the wealth management division sat at 13 percent, down from 17.5 percent in the second quarter and 11 percent in the year-ago quarter.

Phase two of the bank’s long-term cost-cutting plan, New BAC, begins this month, with implementation expected to begin in the Spring of 2012, and executives said headcount reductions will be about half those that occurred during phase 1, which aimed for $5 billion in cost cuts. The bank will offer an update on the second phase of the cost-cutting plan in the first part of next year, executives said.

GWIM assets under management totaled $616.9 billion, down from $661.0 billion in the second quarter but up slightly from $611.5 billion in the year-ago quarter. Total client balances (AUM, assets in custody, brokerage assets, client deposits and loans) sat at $2.06 trillion, down from $2.2 trillion in the second quarter and $2.12 trillion a year ago.

On a conference call with analysts, executives at the bank said they continue to see momentum in the bank’s core lines of business and continue to focus on driving growth in select areas. The firm hit “peak headcount” in July and is now “managing down” in all areas.

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