Bank of America

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Overview: Bank of America is a leading diversified banking firm. By acquiring Merrill Lynch in September, 2008, it also has become a major player in the securities industry. Excluding Merrill Lynch, Bank of America’s main lines of business include:

  • Retail Banking
  • Commercial Banking
  • Investment Management
  • Investment Banking

Job Openings: See this current list of job openings.

Size: Bank of America is among the largest players in the banking industry, across multiple dimensions, including (as of June, 2008 and excluding Merrill Lynch):

  • Number of Client Relationships = 59 million
  • Assets = $1.7 trillion
  • Presence in 31 Countries

Total employees were 287,839 as of June 30, 2011 (“BofA axes 3,500 jobs in cost-cutting drive,” Financial Times, 8/20/2011). Approximately 160,000 (55%) of these worked in consumer related businesses, including between 60,000 and 70,000 in its branches (“Bank of America Set To Slice Work Force,” The Wall Street Journal, 8/19/2011).

Over the year to June 30, 2012, headcount was reduced 4.4%, to 275,460. In September 2012, the firm announced plans to shed 16,000 more jobs by year end, bringing headcount to 260,000 (“Bank of America Rams Up Job Cuts,” The Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2012).

At the end of 2010, Wells Fargo had the most bank branches in the U.S., with 6,314. Bank of America was second with 5,856, but is now in the midst of closing about 10% of these (per “American retail banking: The road to agnosticism,” The Economist, 6/25/2011) and hitting customers who use them with extra fees. The bank closed 178 branches in 2011, and plans to shutter another 200 in 2012 (WSJ, September 20, 2012). Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase (5,286 retail bank branches) plans to add up to 2,000 new branches over five years.

Positives: The firm is a major nationwide banking presence in the U.S., whose subsidiaries include U.S. Trust, its main channel for serving ultra-wealthy individuals. Full-time equivalent employees fell a modest 4,000 (2%) from year-end 2007 to June 2008.

Bank of America received a $25 billion equity infusion from the Treasury Department under the 2008 $700 billion financial rescue package. This helped to solidify both its financial position and that of its new Merrill Lynch subsidiary.

Negatives: The purchase of Countrywide Financial in June 2008 has proven to be disastrous, resulting in over $30 billion worth of losses and costs, a figure that may grow to over $50 billion in the end. Countrywide had a large portfolio of mortgages that soon became delinquent or went into default. Source: “Banks Haunted by Houses,” The Wall Street Journal, 6/30/2011.

Bank of America expects that the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill passed by Congress and signed into law in July 2010 will have a massive negative impact on its earnings. Restrictions that the new law places on fees from debit cards, credit cards and checking overdrafts are projected to decrease revenues by about $4.3 billion annually. The impaired value of Bank of America’s debit and credit card businesses was expected to result in a one-time writeoff of $7-10 billion.

In 2011, Bank of America had to set aside $14 billion to pay for investor claims related to MBS created prior to the 2008 credit crisis that were composed of poor-quality loans. The company will incur an additional $6.4 billion related to extraordinary charges for legal fees, loan servicing writedowns and charges stemming from delays in foreclosures. See “BofA sets aside $14bn to cover loan claims,” Financial Times, 6/30/2011.

Then, in the company’s second quarter 2011 financial report, Bank of America increased its estimate of the liabilities stemming from forced repurchases of bad mortgages to $17.8 billion. Shortly thereafter, in August 2011, AIG filed a $10.5 billion lawsuit against Bank of America to recover losses on 539 separate MBS in which, AIG claims, BofA misrepresented the quality of the underlying mortgages. See “Wave of lawsuits engulfs troubled lenders,” Financial Times, 9/6/2011.

In August 2011, Bank of America announced that it would eliminate 3,500 additional jobs by the end of September, following prior cuts of 2,500 made earlier in the same year. Sources initially indicated that the final figure may be as high as 10,000 (“UBS Joins Wall Street in Job Cuts,” The Wall Street Journal, 8/24/2011). Then, just 16 days later, reports emerged that CEO Brian Moynihan plans to eliminate as many as 40,000 positions (“BofA Cutbacks May Hit 40,000” in the September 9, 2011 issue of The Wall Street Journal). The official announcement on September 12, 2011 was that 30,000 jobs would go by the end of 2013. The rapidly escalating layoff projections indicate a company in crisis.

Question Marks: In April 2011, Bank of America announced a merger of its corporate banking (treasury and cash management services) and investment banking divisions, in order to facilitate client service and cross-selling opportunities. Whether this combination of disparate corporate cultures and pay scales will succeed is open to question.

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