updated 3/26/2009 2:40:51 AM ET 2009-03-26T06:40:51

(Reuters) - Bank of America Corp , the largest U.S. bank, is folding its Premier Banking unit into Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management, laying off several hundred workers, the Wall Street Journal said.

The shift will better position BofA as a wealth manager for clients with assets of $100,000 to $3 million, the sector targeted by Premier Banking, the paper said, citing executives.

The changes primarily affect Premier Banking client managers who were in charge of face-to-face dealings with customers, the paper said, citing a memo to employees.

They will relinquish that role and become "banking specialists," with the firm's 18,000 financial advisers -- 16,000 of whom came from Merrill Lynch in the merger -- taking the lead with clients instead, the paper said.

Bank of America acquired Merrill on January 1.

(Reporting by S. John Tilak in Bangalore; editing by John Stonestreet)

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