Though most economists predict a slower-growth economy in the coming year, the private banking arms of some large banks are expanding.
Bank of America Corp., in particular, has been adding offices and people to its West Coast operations.
Last week the company, which has $131 billion of assets under management, opened two new branches in California, in Walnut Creek and Del Mar Heights. And on Tuesday it created a new job in Washington State and promoted two executives there.
"There is something of a slowdown in Seattle," admitted Raymond Ifert, senior vice president and market executive for Washington and Idaho. "We've had our share of margin calls, and we've seen our clients lose a fair amount of paper wealth. But we're still bullish on the opportunity in this market."
The Charlotte, N.C., company plans to add three more California offices by the end of the month, in Beverly Hills, Westlake Village, and Los Angeles. This fall it opened locations in San Rafael and Sacramento. The goal is to have a total of 10 new offices in California by the spring, according to Connie Beck, private bank president for the western region.
"The explosion of wealth in California outside of traditional concentration areas, changes in lifestyles, and traffic patterns all are reasons we see opportunity for establishing private bank offices in these communities," she said.
Other banking companies have also been attracted to the West Coast. In February, J.P. Morgan & Co. opened a private banking office in Palo Alto, Calif. And Citigroup Inc. has been in Silicon Valley for two years.
The downturn in Internet stocks has done little to dampen the interest of private bankers. James Folwell, a consultant with Boston-based Cerulli Associates, says that although there are fewer e-commerce millionaires in the area to sell services to, those who are left are desperate for financial advice.
"A lot of wealth was created and eventually lost this year, while a lot of venture capital money was earned and spent. But it's a double-edged sword," he said. "You may be good at writing code but not very good at handling your money."
Mr. Ifert agreed that a five-year trend of affluent investors looking after their own finances is most likely coming to an end. "People felt like they could make money on their own," he said. "But it's a question of how much time you can spend reading the prospectus of every mutual fund in the country."
To aid in its efforts, Bank of America promoted Matt Lynch to city executive for Seattle and Kevin Berry to the same position in Bellevue, Wash. Rod Johnson was named senior fiduciary executive for Washington and Idaho. Each has been with the company for more than 15 years and has serving in a variety of asset management and relationship management roles.
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