Bank of America Corp. hired two veterans from Fidelity Investments to help continue the expansion of its retirement services operation.

Rich Linton was hired as head of business retirement solutions and Steve Ulian as head of institutional retirement and benefits solutions, the Charlotte, N.C., banking company said in an internal memo Thursday.

Expanding the retirement services business has been a key initiative for Bank of America Merrill Lynch for the past year. The company’s  “recommitment” to this business is beginning to see results, Andy Sieg, the head of Bank of America Merrill Lynch Retirement and Philanthropic Services said in an interview Thursday,  “in terms of sales traction in the marketplace.”

In the first six months of this year, it generated more than $13 billion in new retirement business, which is more than it accumulated for all of 2009. As of March 31, the unit is responsible for approximately $500 billion in client assets.

“The pace of sales is running well ahead of our forecast and objectives,” Sieg said. “The momentum is strong and these additions will redouble momentum.”

Linton, 42, will be responsible for managing Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s small business retirement solutions including its Advisor Alliance platform, which was relaunched in June, and the SEP/Simple offering, which is an IRA offering for small businesses.

He was an executive vice president of the advisor retirement group at Fidelity, where he held a variety of senior executive positions since he started at the Boston company in 1990.

Ulian, 46, will run Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s proprietary 401(k) platform, defined benefit plan administration, requests for proposals, pricing and underwriting, as well as equity plan services.

He was an executive vice president in sales and relationship management for Fidelity’s workplace investing group. He has worked at Fidelity since 2005. Before that, Ulian was a national sales manager and an operations team leader at Deutsche Bank/Scudder Investments, where he led its retirement services business.

Both will take on responsibilities that were handled by John Furlong, who left the company in January to pursue other opportunities. They will report to Sieg, who saidt the pair will help BofA Merrill Lynch penetrate both ends of the retirement market. He said Ulian will focus on delivering integrated benefits solutions to mid- and large market companies and Linton on smaller businesses.

Sieg said Linton will work with executives throughout the parent bank to cross-sell retirement solutions to its four million small business customers.

In June, Bank of America Merrill Lynch relaunched Advisor Alliance, a retirement services platform for companies with fewer than 100 employees, to attract more business from small businesses. The platform allows Merrill Lynch advisors to sell recordkeeping and retirement plan administration services to small business owners.

Sieg said he thinks there are opportunities to work more closely with small business owners. Bank of America Global Commercial Bank has relationships with one out of every three mid-sized businesses nationally. This year the company’s global commercial bank has referred more than 2,100 clients to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch institutional retirement business, as of June 30. Sieg said the company has “only scratched the surface of the referral opportunities that exist between these two businesses.”

Adding retirement assets has been a major initiative at BofA since the company hired Sallie Krawcheck in August as its head of wealth management and brokerage operations. In October, BofA rolled out My Retirement Income, a group of products that let customers nearing or in retirement automatically transfer funds from a Merrill Lynch cash management account into a BofA deposit account monthly or quarterly.

Sieg was hired by Krawcheck from Citigroup Inc. to lead BofA's retirement growth initiative. The company had $450 billion in retirement assets under management at the end of last year and is looking for ways to cross-sell Merrill Lynch’s products and services to BofA's existing corporate and middle-market customers.

In January it launched a new marketing campaign as part of this cross-selling effort.

Sieg said his unit will continue to look to hire to support its growth.

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