Built from CEO Brian Moynihan’s “one-company” strategy, Bank of America Private Bank leverages the power of the esteemed Bank of America brand as one of the world’s leading financial institutions. It helps ultra-high-net-worth individuals and families, business owners and institutions grow, preserve and share wealth, build legacies and achieve unique goals. The Private Bank takes a tailored approach to delivering specialized services and expertise, providing boutique-style private banking that leverages the global resources of Bank of America.
For more than 200 years, the Private Bank has served clients with dedicated teams who provide customized solutions for wealth structuring, trust and estate planning, and philanthropy, combined with leading investment capabilities and a full range of sophisticated banking and lending solutions. The business also offers specialized capabilities in the areas of art services, sustainable investing, business ownership and succession planning, and specialty asset management.
When Katy Knox came into the role of President in the late fall of 2018, she found herself right in the middle of the Private Bank’s branding transition. “My first priority was to ensure that we could leverage the broader Bank of America brand, which is obviously a very powerful brand,” she tells The CEO Magazine.
The journey took some time and “about a hundred days” of planning, Katy says, but looking back, it’s been a transformational move that has positioned the bank strongly. “It’s been a huge opportunity not only for growth but also further integration across the company,” she points out.
“The brand change has really simplified how our teammates in the consumer bank work with us. And, at the same time, it’s been a great opportunity for generating a lot of internal growth.”
I’m so proud of our team. They’ve done such great work. They’re the people who make it happen every single day.
It wasn’t long ago that Bank of America relied on external hires to fill roles within the company. However, as of late, the bank has shifted gears, growing its team members internally. Katy believes this transition has been significant and continues to play a key role in the bank’s ongoing success.
“It all starts with people,” she asserts. “There has been a shift in growing our talent and pulling them through. If you look at my leadership team, for example, I have individuals that have come from each of Bank of America’s eight lines of business. This internal mobility is a big focus for us.”
It’s a long-term approach, as developing talent doesn’t happen overnight. But the investment is worth its weight in gold and something Katy is passionate about. “Growing talent isn’t something you can just pull out of thin air,” she says. “It’s really about developing the next generation, which is why I spend so much time with the younger professionals in the Private Bank.”
Katy knows that without top talent, the Private Bank’s efforts would be futile. “It’s definitely a team-based approach, making sure that we have the right expertise around our clients,” she reveals. “And that may be from an investment management standpoint with our portfolio managers, trust officers or lending specialists who help deliver extensive credit capabilities across the Private Bank.”
“Our wealth strategists are also a key advantage. You don’t often see that across our competitors. We provide the full financial picture for our clients; being able to have all of that expertise on our team, delivering it locally through an adviser – that’s really the foundation of our model.”
Bank of America’s wealth continuum represents a whopping US$4.3 trillion in client balances between The Private Bank, Merrill and the company’s Consumer Investments business. “Our clients have access to the full capabilities of Bank of America, which are delivered by our team; a team that is relentlessly focused on the client,” she shares.
This client-centric strategy has seen the bank invest heavily in technology to curate a specialized high-tech and high touch offering built around client preferences. “When you focus on the client and what their needs are, and you deliver that with such a high touch like the Private Bank does, that’s a huge competitive advantage,” she says. “Everything we do is done through the client lens – how can we improve the client experience? Because we strive for excellence in the Private Bank.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Private Bank only further strengthened its relationships with clients. “The pandemic caused many of our clients to reflect on what’s most important in their lives, and reassess their priorities and legacy. This is driving demand for both wealth planning and trust and estate planning – and has led to more frequent client engagement and more meaningful conversations with clients.
“Our wealth strategists, who are experts in wealth and estate planning, have been busier than ever – they held over 12,000 planning sessions with clients last year – that’s a 30 per cent increase over 2020, on top of the 60 per cent increase from 2018 to 2020. Furthermore, we’ve seen clients contribute 25 per cent more to trust accounts in the last 12 months than they have in the prior two years.
“As our clients were preparing for the future, they were also really focused on increasing their philanthropic giving. And not just in leaving a legacy, but living that legacy and involving their entire family too. That gave us a great opportunity to focus on the next generation and what their priorities were.”
We provide the full financial picture for our clients; being able to have all of that expertise on our team, delivering it locally through an adviser – that’s really the foundation of our model.
Bank of America research and business data shows that affluent donors gave more over the past two years. Donors gifting to not-for-profits from their Bank of America Charitable Gift Fund – the company’s donor-advised fund – increased the volume of charitable grants in 2021 by 72 per cent compared to 2019. During this period, the Private Bank’s advisers and team of 200 professionals focused on its philanthropic solutions have worked alongside clients, supporting their priorities through the company’s philanthropic capabilities and expertise.
“Philanthropy has been a full-family approach,” Katy shares. “It’s driven tremendous engagement and expansion of our existing relationships.”
There’s no doubt that the Private Bank’s team of top-notch talent is vital to the organization. At the same time, its digital assistant Erica, an artificial intelligence platform that makes online banking easier for clients, is the perfect complement. “Erica’s usage went through the roof during the pandemic,” she confirms. “And Zelle, our fast, safe and easy peer-to-peer payment system, has also seen incredible growth. Today, a record 85 per cent of clients are actively using the Private Bank and Bank of America’s online or mobile capabilities. It shows just how much trust people have in our platform.”
In 2015, the Private Bank had roughly 300 advisers. In 2020, that number hit 500. And over the next three years, Katy says it’s aiming to hit the 600 mark. “For us, growth is centered on the needs of our clients and delivering an exceptional experience. And that can only be accomplished with strong operating practices and a focus on operational excellence.
“I’m so proud of our team. They’ve done such great work. They’re the people who make it happen every single day.”
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