Bank of America’s mass affluent customers now have two new investment offerings they have long been clamoring for – portfolios of mutual funds and exchange-traded funds that focus on generating income.
The new portfolios are geared toward people in pre-retirement or in retirement, Tom Halloran, head of Merrill Edge Product Development, said in a telephone interview.
The investment offerings are professionally managed by Merrill Lynch portfolio managers who rebalance the portfolios on an ongoing basis. Like all Merrill Edge Select Portfolios, they require a minimum investment of $20,000 and charge a 1% annual management fee.
Rather than buying a fixed income mutual fund or an annuity, investors can have a fixed-income oriented managed solution, Holloran explained. It’s a “nice portfolio to offer to clients who are in need of income, especially here where interest rates are still very low,” he said.
The two new portfolios have between eight to 16 different mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, which have all cleared a “high bar in terms of quality,” said Alok Prasad, head of Merrill Edge, an investment management program for mass-affluent investors with $50,000 to $250,000 in investable assets. Both portfolios withstood the rigor of Merrill Lynch’s investment manager’s selection process, which screened some 5,000 mutual funds and 1,400 ETFs, according to Prasad.
The new Merrill Edge Select Income Portfolio is made up entirely of fixed income funds, focusing strictly on generating income. The other portfolio – named Merrill Edge Select Income and Growth Portfolio—balances the twin goals of generating income and capital appreciation. Half of the Income and Growth Portfolio are invested in bond funds and half in equity-based funds.
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The relatively low investment of $20,000 provides a “safe entry point for folks that are still starved for income regardless of what fixed income or equity markets are doing,” Halloran noted.
The new offerings bring the total number of Merrill Edge Select Portfolios to 12. The original 10 portfolios launched in January of 2012 are primarily “total return oriented,” Halloran explained. The new offerings, which rolled out June 3, provide an option for conservative to moderate investors who are more focused on income rather than total return, he said.
The new additions to the Merrill Edge investment program diversify customers’ investment options and align with the program’s core strategy to find simple ways for mass-affluent clients to meet their life goals, added Prasad.
The family of portfolios is unique in that it offers both mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, Halloran added. “What we do differently here is we look and scan the universe of both types of investment vehicles and offer a blended product,” he said.
While Prasad declined to disclose how much the portfolios have accumulated in assets, he said that they “have far exceeded expectations.” “Both our clients and our advisors love the simplicity of it. They’re easy to understand. They’re easy to act on and I think the value that it brings to our clients is very powerful,” Prasad said.