Bank of America, despite seeing its financial advisor ranks continue to shrink in the last quarter of 2021, nonetheless saw robust growth in assets as well as income in its global wealth and investment management segment

The total number of wealth advisors at the firm — which includes those at Merrill Lynch, BofA Private Bank and consumer banking — slipped to 18,846 by the end of December, down from 18,855 at the end of September and from 20,103 at the end of 2020, according to the company’s fourth-quarter earnings report.

Nonetheless, client balances at the global wealth and investment management unit, which includes Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management and BofA Private Bank, reached a record $3.8 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2021, slightly up from the $3.7 trillion the unit had at the end of the prior quarter but 15% higher year-over-year, the company says. BofA attributes the growth to market appreciation as well as to $149 billion in client flows in 2021, of which $22 billion were in the fourth quarter.

Assets under management in the division — defined as managed assets under advisory and/or discretion of the global wealth and investment management unit — reached a record $1.6 trillion by the end of 2021, which was 16% higher year-over-year, according to the report.

Client balances at Merrill hit a record $3.2 trillion by the end of 2021, which was 14% higher year-over-year, and assets under management at Merrill reached a record $1.3 trillion, representing a 17% gain, BofA says.

Merrill added around 6,700 net new households during the fourth quarter and BofA Private Bank added around 500 net new relationships.

“Wealth Management had record client flows and the strongest client acquisition numbers since before the pandemic,” Bank of America chairman and chief executive officer Brian Moynihan said in the report.

As a result, total revenue in the global wealth and investment management unit reached a record $5.4 billion in the fourth quarter, up slightly from the $5.3 billion reported in the third quarter but 16% higher year-over-year, which BofA attributes to higher asset management as well as brokerage fees and loan and deposit growth.

Non-interest expenses in the unit, however, also grew 8% year-over-year, to $3.8 billion, according to the report.

Nonetheless, while net income in the fourth quarter was $1.2 billion, which was unchanged from the prior quarter, it was 47% higher year-over-year, the company says.

For the year, net income was $4.3 billion, up from $3.1 billion reported for 2020, on $20.8 billion in total revenue, up from $18.6 billion reported in 2020, according to the report.

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