Merrill Lynch Wealth Management targets clients with a personal wealth profile of at least $250,000 of investable assets and, including the US business, has 15,000 financial advisers globally. Ex-US the firm has $90bn in assets under administration.
Meanwhile, Julius Baer has over 40 offices in more than 20 countries around the world, but its two home markets are Switzerland and Asia, so the purchase of MLWM would help boost its international presence. It had CHF268bn in total client assets as at the end of April.
The Swiss private banking giant focuses on sophisticated private clients, family offices and external asset managers, and used to own Swiss & Global, which spun off from the parent company in October 2009.
Swiss & Global remains the exclusive manager of Julius Baer funds after the split, which saw it join forces with GAM Holdings.
Julius Baer said in a statement that discussions with Bank of America were still in early stages and so "the outcome is entirely open".
Reports suggest that if a deal is struck it will be the biggest in the wealth management sector since Dutch group ING sold its European private banking assets to Julius Baer, while its Asian assets went to Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp, both in 2010.