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Friday, October 15, 2010

BOFA To Hire 1,000 Small Business Bankers Nationwide

BofA Hiring Bankers For Small Businesses

Bank of America Corp. announced Thursday that it is creating a new position - the small-business banker - and will hire more than 1,000 of them across the country, including in Charlotte.

The Charlotte-based bank, the nation's largest, will hire bankers in Dallas, Los Angeles and the Washington, D.C., area around the end of the year. Hiring will continue in "select locations" across the country into early 2012, the bank said. Charlotte will be included, said spokeswoman Anne Pace. New York and South Florida will also be on the list, another spokesperson said.

The bank didn't specify how the 1,000 new hires would be divided among the different markets. The bank has about 283,000 employees worldwide.

The small-business bankers will be based in branches but will spend much of their time out of the office visiting clients, said Kerrie Campbell, a Dallas-based executive who leads the small-business customer segment. Until now, Bank of America didn't have bankers who were dedicated just to small-business clients, Campbell said. The bank is creating the position as a response to customer demand for local small-business experts, she said.

The new hires will focus on businesses with less than $3 million in annual revenue.

Steve Reider, president of bank adviser Bancography, said Bank of America is late in creating dedicated small-business bankers, a position that most banks already have. He said it was smart for Bank of America to devote more resources to the segment.

"Right now we're in a very slow growth economy, and the only way you're going to gain market share is by taking it from somebody else," Reider said. "In a flush economy there are business expansions and lots of startups you can pick up. There's not a lot of new business formation right now."

Small-business loans have been defaulting at high rates, but Bank of America has made such lending a priority. In the second quarter, nearly 13 percent of the bank's small-business loans were charged off, meaning the bank doesn't expect to collect on them. That was significantly higher than the proportion of charge-offs in other units, but an improvement from nearly 17 percent the previous year.

"Small businesses play a critical role in driving innovation and growth in our economy, and the steps we're taking at Bank of America will help create more certainty, more confidence and more opportunity for small businesses in all of our markets," said chief executive Brian Moynihan, who announced the hirings during a speech at the CEO Club of Boston.

Under Moynihan, Bank of America has been cutting what it considers nonessential businesses to focus on its core customers groups: consumers, small businesses and institutional investors.

It's also been tweaking the way it interacts with customers, such as offering incentives for using online banking instead of the branches, and introducing video-chat with financial advisers at a small number of branches.

Bank of America is expected to announce more changes to its consumer bank over the coming months, some meant to deal with the sweeping new regulations of the Dodd-Frank Act.

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Sources: CNBC, McClatchy Newspapers, Google Maps

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