As the CEO of Bank of America since 2010, Brian Moynihan has overseen the Charlotte-based bank’s efforts to reshape itself in an era of increased regulation and reduced profitability for the country’s major banks.
Over the past six years, Bank of America has shrunk its balance sheet, improved its cash reserves, divested itself of more than 60 operating divisions and shed tens of thousands of employees. It has also spent billions of dollars on litigation related to the bank’s role in the financial crisis.
“We just keep simplifying the company so that we can have higher effectiveness and efficiency,” Moynihan says of the bank’s overall strategy, citing as an example the bank’s reduction of the number of checking accounts it offers from more than 20 to just four.
Moynihan, 56, was in the Triangle this week to meet with employees and celebrate the company’s move to a new 18-story office tower in Raleigh’s North Hills. The move has enabled the bank to consolidate several of its divisions that had been spread across multiple offices in downtown Raleigh.
Bank of America and its two wealth management groups – Merrill Lynch and U.S. Trust – employ roughly 550 people in the Triangle. That number is expected to grow in the coming years as the bank adds financial advisers, bankers and other personnel to service the region’s growing population.
Moynihan spoke with staff writer David Bracken at SAS’ corporate campus in Cary, where he hosted a town hall meeting with local employees. The following excerpts from his interview have been edited for space and clarity.
On the benefits of consolidating the bank’s Triangle employees: We try to get everyone in the same location because one of the things we find out is, in a city like this, we have 600 teammates, and the more of them you have together, the more energy you can get out of that group. … We put a big emphasis … on driving the business between the businesses, and so by having people physically located next to each other, it just makes it happen.
On why the Triangle is an important market: This is one of the growth markets … that we identified because you have great dynamics here – population growth is higher than most places, and economic growth is higher. … We’re going to have more people here over the next several years because the economy is going to grow, and we’re going to help it. … A market like this with opportunities benefits us by increasing that relationship management capacity.
On what local BofA customers can expect: You’ll see new branch formats that are larger, that have more electronic capabilities and more people. You’ll see that as new branches get deployed here. The second thing … is you have mobile capability that is being enacted all the time. … One of the ways will be mobile-enabled ATMs so you can walk up to an ATM, press your finger down (on your smartphone) and actually activate the ATM, put in your PIN and take out the money. Those are being deployed across all markets, and this market will get them quickly. … The real thing that will drive our participation in the business here is more and more salespeople.
On how BofA plans to stay on the cutting-edge of new financial technology: One thing we enjoy in the company is great insight into what’s going on in the market through the $700 million we spend on research every year. … We tripled our spending on digital this year; we spend about $3 billion on technological development every year. … Our view is you have to learn from everyone – we’re an outward looking company – we have to study the consumer, and the art form is how do you bring the right technology at the right time.
On the strength of the U.S. economy and consumers: In our customer base, we see about $40 billion a month in spending on debit and credit cards. Year to date, that’s up about 4 percent over last year. … If you add back the impact of gas prices being down, it would be almost 5 percent. … Overall, the U.S. consumer is spending. That, based with everything we see, we expect the U.S. economy to grow in the high 1s to almost 2 percent this year. It seems like everything’s good. There are certain segments, like the oil and gas segment, which have slowed down, but the rest of the commercial segments are in very good shape.
On a gender discrimination lawsuit, recently filed by a BofA managing director, that alleges unequal pay and a culture she describes as a “‘bro’s club’ of all-male sycophants”: We won’t comment on lawsuits, but if you look at us in terms of our hiring of women … my management team is 35 to 40 percent women; the board’s 31 percent women. … We’ll look at everybody’s allegations seriously and make sure there’s nothing there. But on the other hand, we stand on a very good record of how we handle the talent in our company. We’ll look at this particular case and make sure that there’s nothing there.
On efforts by opponents of House Bill 2 to get the legislation repealed: We’ve been clear about what should happen; there’s not a lot that I can add at this point. We’ve been clear that it should be repealed. I’m glad people are trying to work (to get it repealed.)