The wealth-management business at Merrill Lynch is improving, helping to raise results at parent Bank of America, CEO Kenneth Lewis told investors at the bank's results announcement last week. The Merrill Lynch businesses are critical to "offsetting core credit headwinds," Mr. Lewis said. "The company, with the bank, has essentially a mass-market feeder into Merrill's wealth segment [so that] you can find clients earlier, sooner and less expensively than your competitors. That's a big advantage," said Doug Dannemiller, a senior wealth-management industry analyst with Boston-based Aite Group.

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