Bank of America Edges Away From Southern Roots

Unlike his predecessors, incoming CEO Brian Moynihan is a rugby-playing New Englander

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After a prolonged search to replace harried ex-CEO Ken Lewis (catch up on the backstory here), Bank of America has chosen Brian Moynihan as its new chief executive. He comes from BofA's consumer banking business and, unlike his predecessors, does not hail from south of the Mason-Dixon. While some say selecting Moynihan--a "consummate New Englander"--symbolizes a major break with the bank's traditions, others are more consumed by one question: why did the bank squander so much time deciding? Here's the skinny from business insiders:

  • A Major Power Shift, writes Michael Corkery at The Wall Street Journal. He's surprised they picked Moynihan, who previously worked at a Boston-area bank that was acquired by BofA in 2004. "The move not only signals a shift in the geographic power center at Bofa - away from its home based in Charlotte. It also signals a change in the bank's tradition of grooming CEOs in its consumer banking division, which for decades has been BofA's heart and soul. That is where outgoing CEO Kenneth Lewis and former CEOs Hugh McColl Jr. and Tom Storrs spent much of their careers. Moynihan cut his teeth in wealth management and investment banking at Fleet. He's only headed BofA's retail banking since August."
  • N.C. Headquarters May Be in Peril, writes Robert Trigaux at Venture: "Even the slight chance that BofA might eventually pick another headquarters city with the new Moynihan regime would prove a major gut punch to Charlotte, which has blossomed quickly as a southern city but only because it has relied heavily, as it calls its two big banks, its 'two rich uncles.'"
  • Why the Long Search? asks Peter Cohan at Daily Finance: "Moynihan has run most of BofA's different business and appears capable of handling the challenges ahead. So it makes one wonder why the board was so eager to get someone else besides Moynihan for so many months." He lays out two possible scenarios. Either the "board is concerned that Moynihan's involvement with the Merrill Lynch deal could cause legal problems" or some Bank of America "insiders may have reasons for not rallying behind him. If that's so, the board may have feared unwanted turnover."
  • Way to Go Moynihan! laughs Jon Shazar at Dealbreaker: "With two whole weeks to spare, Bank of America's fractious, barely-functional board of directors managed to hire a CEO. Congratulations, Brian Moynihan, on being handed the Worst Job on Wall Street in the great 'don't pick me' sweepstakes."
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