(Bloomberg) — Bank of America Corp., the second-largest U.S. lender, attracted record new assets last year to its unit servicing retirement and other employee-benefit plans as it cross-sold products through the commercial bank.

The company saw $24.3 billion in new assets, a 28% increase from a year earlier, says Kevin Crain, head of institutional retirement and benefit services at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Assets from clients who had an existing relationship with the global commercial bank more than doubled to $10.6 billion from $5 billion in 2011.

The nation’s largest banks, including Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America and New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co., have been trying to win more of the $3.5 trillion that Americans held in 401(k) retirement plans as of September. They’re competing with traditional account managers such as mutual-fund firms Fidelity Investments and Vanguard Group Inc.

“It is critically important for the bank overall to have a robust retirement business,” Crain says. “It’s the starting place for many employees and individuals toward their long-term financial security.”

Bank of America’s new-asset figures include 401(k)s it administers as well as defined benefit, deferred compensation and stock-award plans. The firm sold 5,998 plans of which about 96%, or 5,773, were 401(k)s.

“The highest-selling product in terms of extending the relationship has been the 401(k),” says Bob Arth, regional executive for the global commercial bank.


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