February 11, 2014 / 8:34 PM / 5 years ago

BofA says it can boost profitability of wealth management business

A Bank of America sign is pictured in Encinitas, California January 14, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) - Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) believes it has ample room to increase the profitability of its wealth management division, an executive said on Tuesday.

The bank’s Merrill Lynch unit could post a pre-tax margin of over 30 percent once interest rates normalize, said John Thiel, the head of wealth management, at an investor conference in Boca Raton, Florida.

The unit’s margin was 26.6 percent in the fourth quarter and 26.4 percent overall in 2013.

Morgan Stanley’s (MS.N) wealth management business, Merrill Lynch’s closest competitor in terms of the profitability, recorded a pre-tax margin of 19 percent in the fourth quarter. It aims to reach a margin between 22 and 25 percent by the fourth quarter of 2015.

Reporting by Peter Rudegeair; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli

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