Dec. 1, 2010
…final remarks as delivered…
…introduction given by Kristin D’Ambrosio, director, PwC…
Thank you, Kristin, for that introduction. And thanks to the Greater Boston Chamber for organizing this series. I’m sure the women who have spoken before me at this series have described many paths to success. But all of them share a common appreciation, I am sure, for the opportunity to network with, to draw encouragement from, and provide perspectives to other women.
So I appreciate the opportunity to attend this breakfast, as much as I will enjoy the opportunity to address it.
Whether you decide if it was worth your time will, of course, be up to you. Either way, the most important words you hear this morning may actually come from where you sit, not where I stand. Because, the best information or insight you will get in this room – may actually come from the woman or man sitting next to you, or a connection you make later here this morning.
And that, in many ways, is the core of my message to you this morning. The toughest challenges – and most rewarding opportunities – are often the ones you did not see coming, or the ones you did not plan for.
Three years ago, as an example, I could not have imagined the economic atmosphere we face today.
This morning, I thought I’d share some of the lessons, good and bad, these last couple of years and what they have illustrated for me. Maybe some of them will resonate with you. For any young women here starting out, my learned lessons will give you some encouragement that you – not only don’t have to have all your plans set – all your education complete – and all your bases covered at this stage of your careers – really you shouldn’t. Having it all buttoned up too early might just limit what you should be focused on – expanding your horizons.
The path – for me – started with an openness to embrace the unexpected – and then making the most of the possibilities that presented themselves.
John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” It’s not a bad description of my own career.
I don’t mean to suggest I’m doing something I never planned on (although I didn’t). I am, but that’s not the point. It’s this: Had I set out to be where I am today, I probably never would have gotten here. I had no grand ambitions when I graduated from college other than a general idea that I wanted to do something that combined creativity and literature. My general plan included getting a Masters in English or Fine Arts. To my great regret – I never did. I thought I might run a gallery. I never did that either. Nor did I teach, or work at a museum, or any number of things I might have predicted when I first graduated – because while I was preoccupied with imagining my future, I found I had to do what every English major dreads: get a job.
This was the mid-1970s. Now it occurs to me that many of you might not remember the 1970s, as you were likely not yet born. At any rate, in addition to bell bottoms and bad hair, that prehistoric era was a time when mortgage rates were in excess of 16 percent and job opportunities were at an all-time low for a record crop of newly minted college graduates.
I began my post-college career working for the city of Boston’s bicentennial celebration. Somehow, that sounds more significant than the actual job, which was – in fact – a combination of helping coordinate volunteer groups, activities that no one else would coordinate; manning events no one else would man; and writing agate type copy for brochures no one else would write or probably read. After a while, my responsibilities increased and the job got better.
And along the way, I observed. I met people – some great and some boring. I absorbed the news. I heard political speeches and volunteered on a campaign. I learned that good public policy is as much about effective politics as solid implementation. And that the most impressive leaders were those – curious enough – to access the best thinking, and surround themselves with people who would challenge them, and yet join in on the established execution once the debate was over.
If you’d told me I was also making relationships that would lead me to a new and rewarding career, I might have questioned that. But a few years later, a former colleague from my earliest days at City Hall called me about a position in public relations for WBZ TV.
And when I began that job, I wasn’t expecting to learn communications from the inside so that someday I could forge productive relationships with journalists – and understand how the media shapes our business. What I did know what made news and how to summarize it in a press release. Add to that a crash course in television production, researching viewer opinions, and promoting the station’s election coverage – and the outlines of a career were emerging.
A few years later, I went to the ad agency, Hill Holliday, as head of broadcasting – a department of initially two people – just as TV commercials and the agency were taking off.
Over the course of the next fourteen years – and four kids later – I moved from the creative side of advertising to account management, eventually heading up the client management group at a company which had so many talented and creative colleagues that the agency went from a local ad shop to the well recognized national marketing firm it is today.
In 1995 – Fleet Bank – offered me a job as head of marketing and communications. In time, the charitable foundation and public policy work came with it, and I have essentially done the same thing, on an increasingly larger scale, for the last 15 years.
That, in short, is my resume.
Now, in retrospect, that career path makes excellent sense. It wasn’t, however, the outcome of a preconceived business plan charted early in my career. I don’t mean to suggest my career path has been paved simply with serendipity. I’ve had plenty of good fortune, for sure. But – for me – each job prepared me for the next. None of them were linear. Rather, it was a collection of connected experiences and skills – aggregated together – that allowed me to take the next step.
I have been at this for more than 30 years. After that much time, you can’t help but deal with the full range of business scenarios – hundreds, maybe thousands – of marketing and business plans, mergers, acquisitions, political issues, personal and professional demands – getting the promotion you hoped for, losing out on a position you dreamed of, and many more good days than bad.
But, altogether, even that experience could not have prepared me for the financial crisis of the last few years. I’m not sure anything could have. In the last two years, change has broken harder and faster than even a proponent of the unexpected would willingly seek out.
By way of background, Bank of America went into the economic tsunami as the number one financial brand in the country, and by any number of brand studies the best financial services brand in the world. We had good relationships with our more than 50 million consumer households, with communities and, generally speaking, with elected officials. No doubt, we had our share of challenges and stumbles, but the underlying stability of our company and our brand reputation were rock solid.
However, in 2008, we would acquire two deeply troubled companies, Countrywide and Merrill Lynch; soon after, we would take $45 billion dollars in TARP money, and spend much of our time at congressional hearings, deal with press leaks, customer meetings, and community group pow-wows. The days never seemed to end; and they rarely ended well. Our industry’s reputation fell like a stone, and our company’s brand reputation fell with it. We lost ground on what mattered most to us, the trust of our customers along with the goodwill of the communities we served.
There’s no course that prepares you for that in business school, and I can assure you there wasn’t one for an English major, either
It’s tempting at times of crisis to hunker down, lower the shades and hope it goes away. Many companies in our industry did precisely that. In fact, some just went away.
So – our first priority was – keep the lights on.
When the financial services sector became embroiled in political and populist outrage, we decided to engage instead – with admittedly varying success. We also knew it was going to take time to rebuild – an effort we are still in full engagement on today – also some days with varying success.
We began our process by first talking with our employees – and with action. In times of crisis, spin doesn’t work.
As a start, at the end of last year, Bank of America fully repaid the money lent us through TARP, with billions in interest – at a profit to the American taxpayer – maybe not a crowning glory, but an incredibly important first step.
- We completed acquisitions of those troubled companies – Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch – which may have prevented a further and greater collapse of the financial services system.
- In 2009, one of the worst economic years in history, we lent $758 billion dollars – more than any other financial institution.
- We maintained our leadership in philanthropy, contributing $200 million annually to nonprofit organizations around the country, when many other companies were scaling back their giving.
And under Brian Moynihan’s leadership, Bank of America broke with our industry and announced early on that we supported the core tenets of regulatory reform, including the creation of the Consumer Financial Services Protection Bureau. Brian has brought in fresh thinking, enormous integrity and energy and a renewed commitment to restore our brand – and deliver for our customers, our clients and our communities.
We were the first big bank to eliminate overdraft fees on debit card purchases, well ahead of any regulation and beyond what was required.
We introduced to consumers a simple one-page summary of their credit card and home loan relationships – a welcome relief from the pages of fine print that, within an attempt to tell customers everything, had made it difficult for them to understand anything.
All of these – concrete commitments and actions.
And while the issue of foreclosures continues to challenge banks and the economy, since 2008, we have modified more than 725,000 mortgages, more than any other bank in the country, helping American families stay in their homes.
As we look ahead, we are building a company that – provides a fair and transparent exchange of value for our customers. We are moving away from a business model based on punitive fees, and replacing it with one that sets out clearly what we can do for a customer and how much it will cost to do it – a commitment to a fortress balance sheet and steady returns that can be maintained not only in times of growth but in slow economic periods, as well.
And for the communities we serve, we are committed to funding the small business and community organizations that are the underlying engine of sustainable economic growth. As the leading SBA lender and a leading community development funder, we value the local economy as well as the macro-economy, knowing that our company’s success is tied to helping set opportunity in motion for small companies and local communities – where one opportunity can truly build upon another and another. In cities like Lawrence and New Bedford, where Bank of America started a neighborhood revitalization effort by infusing capital into local real-estate development and mortgage and small business loans.
Or right here in Boston, where we committed $10 million to support exhibitions, programs, and capital improvements at the MFA and the new Art of the Americas wing.
We know the only way to build our reputation is to help build our communities. We know our brand is defined, in the final analysis, not by advertising or image but by what people see and hear and experience in their own communities.
The intersection between the global and the local is one manifestation of the very real reality that everything is connected. Maybe the most important and final lesson I’d like to share.
We know the financial services industry created uncertainty and too much risk. We know that, as an industry and as a company, we have more to do.
We know that no company’s reputation is isolated from others in their industry. Just as important – is this: within a company, no one person’s job can be entirely isolated from anyone else’s.
I’m responsible for a fairly broad set of efforts at Bank of America, from marketing to public policy strategy, and I help lead our efforts to communicate who we are and what we’re about to everyone, from employees and shareholders, to customers and elected leaders.
I work with a great team of 2,000 professionals. Many of them have skills I do not possess. Many more have the degrees I failed to get. All of them work hard – the best among them stay connected to each other, to the business, to the world around them and to the news at hand. Within that group, we’ve worked to integrate public and consumer policy, corporate social responsibility, advertising and communications, product marketing – all of it – into a unified, connected effort for a company, which despite all the headwinds, has evolved from a largely retail and commercial U.S.-based bank, to a global financial services powerhouse with number one positions in consumer and investment services and many aspects of investment banking, here and globally – along with steadily improving customer satisfaction business results.
The reality of business in a global economy – and of communications in a flattened media environment – is that you can’t parcel out responsibility to isolated offices. Everyone shapes brand reputation. Everyone should feel that growing the business is her job, too.
That’s what connectivity is all about. And connectivity, I’ll say by way of conclusion, is also what makes this breakfast series so worthwhile.
Published on BRAND PR WIRE
- 77Dateline City: CHARLOTTE, N.C. Results Include $0.7 Billion ($0.04 per Share) in Favorable Market-related Net Interest Income Adjustments Noninterest Expense Declines to $13.8 Billion; Lowest Level Since Q4-08 Continued Business Momentum Consumer Banking Deposits (EOP) up $33 Billion, or 6 Percent, From Q2-14 to $547 Billion Residential Mortgage and Home…
- 65Subtitle: Brian T. Moynihan, Chief Executive Officer, Bank of America October 13, 2011Atlanta, GA"The Purpose of Banking"...as prepared for delivery......introduction given by Geri Thomas, Bank of America Global Diversity and Inclusion executive and Georgia market president...Thank you, Geri. I appreciate your kind words... your leadership here in Georgia... and all…
- 65Subtitle: Brian T. Moynihan, Chief Executive Officer, Bank of America April 12, 2011Charlotte, NC"A Shared Vision for Retail Banking in America"...as prepared for delivery......introduction given by Roy Cooper, attorney general for the state of North Carolina...Thank you, Roy. I appreciate being invited to join you and your colleagues today.I commend…