CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan reiterated the importance of Charlotte to the company and urged a resolution to the upcoming “fiscal cliff” in an interview with the Observer on Wednesday.
From his 58th floor office in the Bank of America Corporate Center, Moynihan also reflected on the ongoing cost-cutting the company has worked through in the past three years.
Questions and answers have been edited for space and clarity.
Q. What does Charlotte mean to you and to this company?
A. It’s our headquarters city. It’s a major market for us. We employ a lot of people. We help this economy in a lot of ways, not only in what we do in a business context but what we do in a general context; in terms of contributions and (market president) Charles Bowman’s role, and David (Darnell, co-chief operating officer) and Cathy (Bessant, global technology and operations executive) and all the teams that work here.
Q. How often are you personally in Charlotte, and what do you do when you’re here?
A. This is my office. We travel, but this is the home office. David, Cathy, Andrea (Smith, human resources executive) and the consumer teams, the wealth group, the CFO, chief risk officer, etc. Then in New York we have the more market-based businesses, (co-chief operating officer) Tom Montag and the teams up there.
Q. What is the business case for keeping the headquarters here?
A. This is a great community to do business in. Between buildings and people and everything, this is where we are. This is our headquarters city.
The business case is, it’s here, and they provide great support for us in town, and it’s a great place to live. My teammates are happy here.
This is where we are. This is where we plan to be.
Q. Has the makeup of the job functions here changed?
A. No. Since I’ve been CEO, the company hasn’t really changed except for shedding stuff that wasn’t core to what we do.
The fundamental change to the structure of the company came from 2003, when they started with the acquisition of Fleet, to 2009 when it finished the acquisition of Merrill Lynch.
That’s where the infrastructure changed, in those six years, in terms of businesses and size and scope and scale. It changed all the different pieces. That hasn’t changed since I’ve come here. We’ve just narrowed the scope of the company.
Q. Do you see a change in Charlotte’s headcount (currently about 15,000)?
A. As we keep shaping the company, there are reductions in headcount that go on. This community will be no different than any other community. If it’s a unit we’re consolidating or moving, it will happen or not. But there’s no specific goals. It just happens quite a bit by just sort of natural movement in the footprint.
As we’ve been reducing headcount, remember we have 270,000 employees, and use an attrition rate of 10 percent. By not filling jobs, we can actually reduce our headcount, and that’s what we’ve been largely doing.
With Project New BAC (Moynihan’s ongoing efficiency initiative), we took the time to do it right, to take the headcount down while making investments at the same time in areas of growth.
Charlotte will fare basically the way everybody else will. There’s been a slight leakage down, but it’s no one unit.
Q. Is the fiscal cliff overhyped or a serious threat?
A. It’s a serious issue. It has been for a long time, issues about America’s fiscal health and its ability to get its budget in line with more of a historical practice.
If we can’t live within an effective budget management process, which everybody agrees with, long-term you’re going to have real issues in the country.
Is it “overhyped?” I’ll let you use those words. But I’ll tell you, it’s a serious matter to get this right.
When we talk to our clients, it is heaving an impact on them, slowing them down from doing things. It’s just one more thing they have to try to figure out.
If we can get through this, that would be one less thing to figure out and then go back and figure out how to compete.
Those are the impacts we have. In the near-term, uncertainty and confidence. Longer-term, like me and my household or you and your household, the budget has to be constructed in a way it can be sustained.
Q. How optimistic are you about a break in the political stalemate?
A. I read the same news articles you do. I’m optimistic because I think, at the end of the day, everybody realizes the right thing to do is to get it done. I’ve been optimistic even through the ebbs and flows of the dialogue.
But it’s time to get it done.