Morgan Stanley Smith Barney is intensifying its campaign to increase its wealth management and private banking footprint nationally as it hired in New York and Miami as well as a planned expansion in Charlotte, N.C.

In Charlotte, it expects to hire more than 50 private bankers later this year who will work closely with the company’s financial advisors, a company spokeswoman confirmed. Currently, it has 35 employees in its private banking office in Charlotte.

Sophie Schmitt, a senior analyst at Boston-based research firm Aite Group, said the sudden jolt in potential hiring can be viewed as a way for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney to compete with its rival, Bank of America Corp. [BAC], which is headquartered in Charlotte.

“Merrill Lynch advisers work with a centralized team of Bank of America banking product experts,” she said. “[They] ensure clients are able to meet all of their financial needs at one firm and the Merrill Lynch Private Bank works with U.S. Trust to offer bank products to high-net worth and ultra-high-net worth” clients.

Schmitt also said that she believes another reason behind the hiring decision lies in the shift in strategy by Morgan Stanley to focus on wealthier clients.

“Morgan Stanley is adding to staff but they have also lost a number of financial advisers (most likely lower producing advisers) so they are changing the mix of their staff,” she said.

But the firm has been hiring in other regions. Last Friday, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney brought on Shannon Brightman and Steve Peet, to its New York office. Peet was a 10-year veteran of UBS, while Brightman had been at UBS four years. Together, the pair managed $151 million in client assets and generated $1.2 million in annual fees and commissions.

Morgan Stanley’s [MS] private wealth management group hired four investment professionals from Barclays Wealth for its Miami office who will work with high-net-worth clients in Venezuela and Columbia.

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