Bank of America Merrill Lynch recently hired four executives to expand their Restaurant Group there.
• James Short, has joined as SVP and Senior Relationship Manager, based in Scottsdale, Ariz. Short most recently headed up the food finance group at BBVA, and prior to that, was a SVP at GE Capital Franchise Finance. He joined BAML in August.
• Aliva Willis also has been hired as SVP and Senior Relationship Manager in Atlanta, Ga., and will begin in November. She has previous experience with BAML, and was most recently with JP Morgan Chase. Prior to that, she was with Regions Bank.
• Rich Watson, who has been with the bank since 2011, rejoined the restaurant group in May as VP and Senior Relationship Manager. He is based in Indianapolis, Ind.
• Yelena Brace, will also be joining as VP and Commercial Credit Underwriter, based out of Atlanta, Ga. She came to BAML in August from Iberiabank, and Old Florida Bank prior to that.
• Chase Smith, who will be a Commercial Credit Associate Underwriter, will be based in Boston.
"We waited and hired at the right time. We have a really great team that supports and complements each other," said Cristin O’Hara, managing director and restaurant group head at Bank of America. "It’s a good sign to clients: We’re backfilling empty roles, we’re growing, we’re committed."
O’Hara has her eye out for adding relationship managers with strong credit backgrounds, which Short, Willis and Watson all have.
"A lot of our restaurant clients desire some credit, treasury, or growth-related products," she said. "If a relationship manager has credit experience, they can talk to the customer about what we can do with confidence, and anticipate where the customer might view things differently. It is just much more constructive when RMs have both the credit hat, and the sales hat. There’s much more meaningful and strategic conversations to be had with the client."
With the addition of Watson, "He’s covering new geographic area where we previously had a gap, in our continued efforts to be as local to our clients as possible," she added.
Adding Brace and Smith also shores up their credit department. "We have added to our team a diverse set of bankers as well as some younger members to grow our bench and to keep our legacy going," she said.
BAML is hiring bankers because they continue to be optimistic about the industry, O’Hara stated. "We’re in the middle of a cycle right now—we’ve been through many before—so when we hire new bankers, it signals to the market we are in for the long haul. We are not stopping now. Senior leadership is supportive and we want to be in a position to win going forward."