The proposition for Bank of America's "Merrill Edge" program is getting a little murkier as the company hires more people to serve a vast captive mass affluent market.
Bank of America says it is hiring 160 customer service reps for Southern California and Arizona.
These people are tasked to help upper-middle-class banking customers buy mutual funds and other investment products.
Interestingly, Bank of America says it has 8 million accounts that qualify for the service and so can already be considered "inherited" Merrill Edge customers.
That's a lot of people with $50,000 to $250,000 to invest.
In theory, even if Merrill Edge never prospected a single client outside the bank's customers, it could capture $400 billion or more just from those customers.
But in practice, the economics are still mysterious. Can a few thousand telephone service reps and bank-stationed personnel serve 8 million people who want a bit of the "Merrill Lynch" experience?
How much of that $400 billion can they capture?