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Bank of America's overseas workforce continues to grow

Boosted by acquisitions of Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch, Bank of America's offshore operations have grown sharply in the past two years, exceeding 14,000 employees in India, the United Kingdom, Mexico, the Philippines and Costa Rica, documents obtained by the Charlotte Observer show.

This overseas staff, which handles technology, processing and other back-office tasks, now equals about 5 percent of the company's total employees. In 2007, the bank said it had about 4,000 employees in its main India offshoring operations, or about 2 percent of total workers then. Bank of America's workforce has jumped to about 301,000 from 200,000 at the beginning of 2007.

The growth comes as Bank of America cuts thousands of jobs companywide because of acquisitions and the weak economy. Banks that have accepted government bailout funds also are increasingly being asked to justify their compensation, marketing, corporate jet use and other business practices. Bank of America has accepted $45 billion in government loans.

For years, financial institutions have been on the leading edge of offshoring as they look to save on wages and tap overseas talent. Critics say the expansion comes at the expense of U.S. workers, a particular concern as unemployment is hitting the highest level in decades.

Experts say banks are looking to move more work overseas as they seek to cut costs in the recession. Financial institutions with significant offshore operations on average have 7 to 8 percent of their workforce overseas, according to the Deloitte consulting firm.

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