The wealth management field is getting crowded, but Bank of New York Mellon (BK) is hoping that a hiring spree and its long history — more than two centuries — will help give it an edge.

BNY Mellon Wealth Management plans to expand its sales force by 50%, to 150 workers, by the end of next year. Thirty-five of the 50 hires have already been made, a spokeswoman said Friday.

In addition, it plans to hire more private bankers and portfolio managers over the same time period. Precise numbers were not immediately available.

It has also hired William Johnston for the newly created position of head of private banking solutions. He will be responsible for overseeing private and escrow bankers and coordinating the activities of mortgage banking officers in the field.

"We have been expanding our wealth management and private banking presence," says Bill Sappington, the executive director of private banking at BNY Mellon Wealth Management. "We decided to bring in someone of Bill's caliber to make sure we had the right amount of management attention. He brings tremendous experience working with high-net-worth clients, entrepreneurs and investors."

Johnston previously worked for Capital One Financial (COF), where he was a market executive for the middle market. He will report to Sappington.

More banks and other financial services companies have either expanded or entered the wealth management arena as a way to boost revenues at a time when interest rates remain low and loan demand soft. This has made the field much more competitive.

However, BNY Mellon is counting on its reputation as one of the oldest and safest banks in the country, in addition to a strong product offering, to help it succeed with its growth plans, Sappington says.

The company's history extends back to 1784 with one of America's founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, actively involved in its organization, according to the bank's website.

It is expanding its private banking operations into Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and any other top 25 wealth markets where it didn't previously have a private banking presence.

The company is hiring wealth managers and other experts that are well-connected in these cities and have experience in providing credit and lending options to affluent people, Sappington says.

"Obviously we've been in the business a long time," he says. "We feel like our strength of our platform and capabilities will basically win the day."

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.