New York: Bank of America Corp’s headcount is up for the first time in 10 years.

The company’s 3,600 net additions last year included thousands of employees from low- and moderate-income areas, Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan said in a memo to staff Friday. The lender also reached a goal of adding 10,000 military veterans over five years.

“We begin 2020 strong,” said Moynihan, who took the helm a decade ago. “It is a nice start,” he said, citing the bank’s initiatives on technology, philanthropy and $1.7 billion of capital investments in branches and other facilities.

The increase in staffing reflects a turnaround for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based lender, which had about 209,000 employees at the end of the third quarter, according to a filing. That still represents a decline from about 288,000 workers in 2010, with thousands culled in the wake of the financial crisis. The additions include more than 50 managing directors that Matthew Koder, the company’s head of global corporate and investment banking, has hired since he was promoted in late 2018.

With its rising headcount, Bank of America provides a contrast with other global lenders, which have announced the biggest job cuts in four years as they slash costs to weather a slowing economy and adapt to digital technology. More than 50 banks have announced plans to cut a combined 77,780 jobs, with banks in Europe accounting for almost 82 per cent of the total, according to filings by the companies and labour unions.

Last year, Bank of America returned more than $34 billion to shareholders in the form of share buy-backs and dividends, Moynihan said in the memo. The company posted four consecutive quarters of record net income starting in mid-2018.

Moynihan also touted employment policies such as raising the bank’s minimum wage to $20 an hour, up more than 75 per cent from 2010, and keeping health-care premiums unchanged for employees making less than $50,000 a year. The lender also paid employees special bonuses for a third straight year.