Bank Watch

BofA financial chief’s exit puts focus on bank’s succession plan

Bank of America CEO Moynihan, 55, has given no indication he’s ready to leave the bank. Two years ago, Moynihan, in an interview with public television’s Charlie Rose, said he could envision being the chief executive of the Charlotte-based bank for “the rest of my life.”
Bank of America CEO Moynihan, 55, has given no indication he’s ready to leave the bank. Two years ago, Moynihan, in an interview with public television’s Charlie Rose, said he could envision being the chief executive of the Charlotte-based bank for “the rest of my life.” Bloomberg

Bank of America’s surprise announcement on Wednesday night that its chief financial officer is leaving the company has put more attention on the question of who might be next in line to succeed CEO Brian Moynihan.

To be sure, Moynihan, 55, has given no indication publicly that he’s ready to leave the bank, which made him chairman in October.

Two years ago, Moynihan, in an interview with public television’s Charlie Rose, said he could envision being the chief executive of the Charlotte-based bank for “the rest of my life.” In that same interview, Moynihan told Rose the bank had a succession plan in place but offered no details.

I reached out Wednesday night to bank analysts and industry experts to see who they think is the most likely successor to Moynihan. Here’s what I was told:

“It is possible, and this is only speculation, that this time around the (bank’s) board may be thinking of an outside candidate to replace Brian,” Miami-based independent bank consultant Ken Thomas said.

“You will recall that was a big point of discussion when he (Moynihan) got the job, whether to go inside or outside. Looking over his performance, they might decide to try the other approach this time, and is it possible that Thompson knew about this and that maybe one of the reasons why he is not around?”

Independent bank analyst Nancy Bush said Thompson was not the most likely candidate to succeed Moynihan, “and there is not one now.”

“Way too early for that,” she said.

Tony Plath, a finance professor at UNC Charlotte, said the top candidate to succeed Moynihan for the past several years has been Chief Operating Officer Tom Montag.

Plath said Montag has been “in charge of the primary driver of corporate revenue and earnings at the bank ever since they acquired (Merrill Lynch in 2009).” Montag oversees all of Bank of America’s businesses that serve companies and institutional investors.

Even though Montag never worked at FleetBoston Financial, where Moynihan was when Bank of America acquired it in 2004, “he's clearly the favorite son if the board would look to replace Brian any time in the next few years,” Plath said.

Montag is the first executive Moynihan mentions in an internal memo sent Wednesday to bank employees announcing Thompson’s exit.

“I and my teammates on the management team benefit each day from his leadership and partnership,” Moynihan wrote. Because of Montag’s “expertise and steady hand, we have struck the risk-reward balance that is the new standard for our industry since the post-crisis reforms.”

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