As part of an effort to expand its private banking division, Bank of America Corp. plans to market its services more aggressively to corporate executives and wealthy women next year.
The unit is working with the New York marketing agency Wechsler Ross & Partners Inc. to fine-tune its efforts.
Corporate executives represent a relatively untapped market for private banks, said Harold Evensky, president of the asset management firm Evensky PFO in Coral Gables, Fla. Private banks have wooed business owners much more intensely, he said.
Arnold Wechsler, chief executive officer of Wechsler Ross, said his agency will expand on a strategy it had already developed with Bank of America to attract affluent customers.
Bank of America declined to discuss the plans in detail, but Lydia Bratiani, vice president of its global private bank marketing, said it is not turning away from markets that have been lucrative in the past. The business owner market, for example, has been a primary marketing target this year, she said.
Mr. Wechsler said his agency is helping Bank of America aggressively target newly minted wealth, since that will be the source of virtually all private client growth in the future. "There isn't any new old money left," he said. "There's only new, new money."
Corporate executives are often targeted separately from other high-net-worth individuals because they require distinct services, he said.
Mr. Evensky said the services where special advice is needed include vested stock options and preparing for retirement. However, the overall corporate executive market is so large that it might make a difficult target, he said.
Charles Wendel, president of the marketing strategy firm Financial Institutions Consulting in New York, said that banks in general have trouble attracting business owners' investment business, even though this segment of the high-net-worth market flocks to banks for other financial services.
Mr. Wechsler said that his company's marketing efforts are designed to overcome this gap. "If a person is using the bank for one thing, they might not be aware of other parts of the bank's business."
Wealthy women are also separately targeted by private banking marketers, Mr. Wechsler said. Far more women than men prefer to work with advisers and ask for more education on investments, so it is often valuable to specifically target them in marketing literature, he said.
Some observers deny that there is any meaningful distinction between what wealthy men and women want. Russ Alan Prince, president of Prince & Associates, a Shelton, Conn., consulting firm, said there is no appreciable difference in the desires or behavior between men and women with $1 million or more of assets.
"The higher you go in wealth, the fewer differences there are between men and women," he said.
A campaign marketing private client services to business owners could easily miss important distinctions between the kinds of services different kinds of business owners need, he said. "Business owners are not a homogenous group."
The amount of money these specific segments of the market have created is hard to gauge, but of the $25.5 trillion of high-net-worth money that a Merrill Lynch/Gemini Consulting World Wealth Report estimates was created last year, roughly 80% is the result of small and midsize business growth, and about 30% of that belongs to women, Mr. Prince said.
Ms. Bratiani said that Bank of America's private banking unit's currently manages $140 billion of assets.
Connie Beck, the company's private bank president for the western region, told American Banker last week that the company has been revamping and expanding its private banking services all year. This past fall it opened two new offices in California, and hopes to add eight to that region by the spring, she said.
Bank of America says it is also considering distributing its trust services through independent advisers who sell the company's mutual funds.