Bank of America Corp. replaced UBS AG as the world's biggest wealth manager last year after buying Merrill Lynch & Co., according to a survey released Monday by Scorpio Partnership of London.

Bank of America managed $1.5 trillion at the end of 2008, compared with $1.39 trillion at UBS, Switzerland's biggest bank by assets, said Scorpio, which surveyed 248 institutions worldwide.

Citigroup Inc. was third and Wells Fargo & Co. climbed to fourth after purchasing Wachovia Corp.

Though wealth managers hired 6% more staff last year, taking advantage of upheavals in the banking industry, their income fell 8%, Scorpio said. With the financial crisis slashing client assets in the wealth management industry by 16%, to $14.5 trillion, in 2008, that hiring opportunism may be misplaced, said Scorpio Managing Partner Cath Tillotson.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.