In an effort to capitalize on opportunities in the retirement market, Bank of America Corp. plans to spend between $15 million and $20 million on a new marketing campaign over the next four months.
The “help2retire” campaign, which launched Monday, will include print and television advertising as well as billboards nationally. The print ads will launch this week and the television ads are expected later this month. Bank of America said that the campaign encourages individuals to work with a Merrill Lynch advisor to find areas of their lives that they “wish to put an end to” when they retire.
Among the slogans in the campaign are: Help2Retire confusion surrounding Roth IRA conversions, Help2Retire rush hour, and Help2Retire the rat race.
The company would not say how large a percentage of its overall marketing budget it is spending on this campaign.
"From the context of the legacy companies, this type of marketing and advertising effort behind retirement is unprecedented,” said Andy Sieg, the head of retirement and philanthropic services for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Though the company doesn’t have any specific targets, Sieg said he expects the campaign will help the company rapidly increase its retirement assets under management this year.
Analysts said this campaign is an effort by the bank to increasingly blend itself with Merrill Lynch and its corps of financial advisors. Geoffrey Bobroff of Bobroff Consulting in East Greenwich, R.I., said that this mean a considerable increase in assets for BofA. "There was the obvious cross-selling opportunity that everyone realized when BofA bought Merrill, but beneath that, there are a lot of opportunities for BofA and Merrill to co-venture," he said.
Adding retirement assets has been a major initiative at Bank of America since the company hired Sallie Krawcheck in August as the $2.39 trillion-asset company's 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 Bank of America'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.
Sieg said the new marketing campaign is a major part of this cross-selling effort. “We are really putting our marketing muscle behind the retirement opportunity,” Sieg said. “If you think strategically, the retirement marketplace is one of the largest opportunities for our company.”
According to the Charlotte banking company’s research, there are $330 billion of retirement assets that are eligible to be rolled over this year and 13 million households are eligible for Roth IRA conversions. “It is a new game in the retirement market and it is a game that we think that we are uniquely positioned to win,” Sieg said.
Other analysts said Bank of America is not alone. Other large financial services companies, including Newark, N.J., -based Prudential, have introduced advertising and marketing campaigns that center on retirement assets. Sieg said for Bank of America Merrill Lynch this is a very unique campaign. “In the wealth management space, client acquisition is traditionally driven by referrals not by advertising,” he said. “Therefore, this is a very different approach.”
Justine Metz, the head of marketing for retirement and philanthropic services at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said that in 2008 Bank of America spent “quite of bit” of its advertising budget on retirement, but “we didn’t achieve as much as we wanted to” as a result of that campaign. “The bank didn’t have an investment on the advice side unto itself and Merrill Lynch didn’t emphasize retirement at all in its marketing or advertising campaigns,” she said. “They never did an explicit campaign around retirement. They focused their advertising on advice and the thundering herd.”
Bank of America plans to lead the campaign with Merrill Lynch’s advisor force because, Metz said, the “financial advisors are a major differentiator.”
Sieg said that Bank of America is offering additional training to advisors and new tools. “We are supporting and encouraging them to seek designation,” he said. “We are trying to create the most retirement ready advisor force in the industry.”
Bank of America expects to use the “help2retire” campaign throughout this year, Metz said, but she would not pinpoint how much the company planned to spend after April. “Retirement will be a steady drum beat this year,” she said.
In the second part of the campaign, which will launch later this quarter, BofA will advertise on a sign in Times Square in New York City that encourages people to text message what they want “help2retire” and the results will be broadcast on the billboard, Metz said.
“This campaign is all about personalization,” she said. “We want to interact. We are also going to be doing a similar initiative online on a website. We want to emphasize all channels.”
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