Bank of America Corp. (BAC) announced Monday it is hiring about 160 Merrill Edge Financial Solutions Advisors across Southern California and Arizona by the end of first quarter 2012 as part of the firm's plan to enhance the solutions it offers to preferred customers -- those with investable assets of $50,000 to $250,000.

Bank of America does business with more than 8 million preferred customers and thinks they are "among the fastest-growing segments in the financial services industry."

"Preferred customers don't typically fit the traditional model for a full-service financial advisor or private banker, and so they're often underserved by financial institutions," Linda Shelby, west coast division executive at Bank of America, said in the statement

According to the latest Merrill Edge Report, 57 percent of respondents believe it will be harder to save for the long term five years from now compared to today. As a result, one in five (21 percent) reported that they have increased their savings in the last year.

This national trend is mirrored in Los Angeles, where one in every four respondents say they are saving more than a year ago. In addition, Los Angeles' mass affluent say their number one financial regret is not contributing enough to their 401(k) or retirement savings, followed by having too much credit card debt.

Bank of America is also hiring 1,000 small business bankers in local communities to provide small business customers with local specialists to address their financial needs.