Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said when he’s ready to give up the job, the odds are split on whether his successor will be a woman.
“Absolutely, there’s a 50-50 chance,” he said Friday in an interview on Bloomberg Television at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We’ve been after diversity and inclusion in our company for a long time. Our management team is basically half women, 40 or 45 percent of the people in our company are managed directly by a woman.”
Moynihan, 58, noted that he’s “pretty young” and has “some room to run” as CEO. While men oversee all of the Charlotte-based bank’s biggest businesses, Moynihan said he’s working to ensure that his board has a “very broad” set of candidates to choose from when the moment comes to pick the next chief.
Whichever firm does it first, putting a woman in charge of a Wall Street firm will be historic. Banking has been a male bastion for decades, and it remains one of the last industries – not only in the U.S. but across the globe – in which all the biggest companies are still run by men.
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Only in recent years have women started to appear in more than token numbers on management committees and in the boardroom. At Bank of America, five of the top 13 executives on Moynihan’s leadership team are women: Chief Operations and Technology Officer Catherine Bessant, human resources executive Sheri Bronstein, Vice Chairman Anne Finucane, corporate general auditor Christine Katziff and Chief Administrative Officer Andrea Smith.
Bank of America’s revenue-producing operations are broken up into four main divisions, all run by men. The consumer business is co-headed by Dean Athanasia and Thong Nguyen, and wealth management is overseen by Terry Laughlin. Chief Operating Officer Tom Montag controls the investment and corporate banks.
Moynihan had presided over a revenue-producing division before he rose to the top job eight years ago, when the tumultuous takeover of Merrill Lynch & Co. prodded Kenneth Lewis to step down. Moynihan was head of the consumer bank when he was named to the CEO role in December 2009.
Earlier this week, Moelis & Co. Chairman & CEO Ken Moelis said he too might be succeeded by a woman.
“We have a substantial number of women in the leadership of our firm and some of them are responsible, I think, for the success of our firm,” Moelis, 59, told Bloomberg Television on Wednesday.
Yet gender equality at the highest ranks of the industry is rare enough that publications such as Forbes and American Banker still compile “Most Powerful Women in Finance” lists annually.
Numbers, of course, don’t tell the whole story. Questions about the treatment of women in the workplace persist, and because of the #metoo movement they’ve taken on a new sense of urgency.
Earlier this month, a senior executive in BofA’s Merrill Lynch unit, Omeed Malik, left the firm after a female co-worker accused him of inappropriate sexual conduct. Moynihan said he’s aware of the circumstances and is satisfied the company “handled it the right way.”
The CEO also said he isn’t surprised Wall Street hasn’t been roiled by more accusations of harassment or abuse.
“Everybody has cases,” he said. “It’s just a question of: Do you take care of it at the time, or do you let it fester and build up?”