First Republic Bank is hiring in a bid to expand its wealth management operation.

The company announced Tuesday that Jim Fletcher, a portfolio manager with more than 25 years of experience, has joined First Republic Private Wealth Management in Newport Beach, Calif.

Fletcher will work with clients to provide customized equity and fixed-income investment management, First Republic said. A customized client portfolio utilizes traditional portfolio management and may include outside managers for equity, fixed-income and alternative investments.

Before joining First Republic, Fletcher was first vice president and senior director of portfolio management at Bank of New York Mellon in Newport Beach.

First Republic had been independent until Merrill Lynch bought it in 2007 for $1.7 billion. Merrill agreed that it would operate as a stand-alone brand and would retain its name, its management, its headquarters and its client and community focus. But the Merrill-First Republic marriage did not last long. When Bank of America Corp. scooped up Merrill, First Republic was part of the acquisition.

Then as speculation mounted about how B of A would raise much-needed capital to pay the government back for its bailout funds, B of A announced in October 2009 that it would sell First Republic to Colony Capital and General Atlantic, two private-equity firms, and a group of other investors, including the bank's chairman, James H. Herbert, and chief operating officer, Katherine August-deWilde. The deal, which is expected to close in the second quarter, has allowed the bank to make its own moves again.

First Republic has preferred banking and/or wealth management offices in San Francisco; Los Angeles; Santa Barbara, Calif.; Newport Beach; San Diego; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; Boston; Greenwich, Conn.; and New York.

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