Bank of America’s global wealth and investment management unit provided a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing fourth quarter results for the nation’s largest bank.

The unit, which includes Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management, U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management and Columbia Management, reported net income of $1.3 billion, up from $1.1 billion the previous quarter.

Net income from Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management alone was $1.5 billion, up 22% from the previous year, while U.S. Trust reported net income of $174 million. Columbia Management posted a net loss of $7 million, BofA announced Wednesday.

The combined unit also reported assets under management of $750 billion, which is an increase of $10 billion from previous quarter. The bank said that improved market valuations and positive asset flows generated by advisors were dragged down by outflows in Columbia Management. Last September BofA agreed to sell Columbia to TD Ameritrade for up to $1.2 Billion. The sale is due to close in the second quarter.

As Sallie Krawcheck, president of BofA’s global wealth unit, said during a conference call last week advisor attrition rates during the fourth quarter were historically low. The bank reported that it retained 94% of high-producing Merrill Lynch financial advisors, and the overall number of advisors has stabilized at around 15,000, up slightly from the previous quarter. Annualized revenue per Merrill Lynch financial advisor was also up slightly from the last quarter, at $830,000 per advisor.

The bank also emphasized the success of its cross-selling initiative, reporting that the commercial bank had received more than 3100 referrals from Merrill Lynch financial advisors, and 41% of Merrill advisors had sold banking products to their customers.

BofA said it generated cost savings of $1.1 billion from the Merrill acquisition during the fourth quarter, to reach $3.3 billion in savings year-to-date, which the bank says is “well ahead” of its initial estimates.

Overall, the Charlotte-based banking company reported a quarterly loss of $5.2 billion, or 60 cents per share, largely due to costs associated with its repayment of $45 billion in Tarp funds.

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