Thursday, October 01, 2009

The end of the road in sight for the great BofA-Charlotte relationship?

Bank of America has been synonymous with Charlotte for so long that the word that CEO Ken Lewis is stepping down sent shockwaves through the Carolinas as people began to face the reality that that bank-city relationship may be in the final days.

"The decision means the end of Lewis' four-decade career and raises questions about whether the company can continue its tradition of hiring its leader from within," says the Charlotte Observer. "The move also spurs concerns about whether the bank will maintain its Charlotte headquarters, which has become more entrenched under Lewis."

Like BB&T and Wachovia, Bank of America has historically been a North Carolina bank, going through the names of North Carolina National Bank (NCNB), NationsBank and then Bank of America. (Full disclosure: My father retired from working more than 30 years with Bank of America.) The thought that Lewis' departure could mean a fracture between the bank and the Queen City -- and thus the state -- is disheartening.

In Charlotte, stacked with bank employees, retirees and investors, Lewis' departure was embraced by some who said he had become a distraction for the bank. They noted declining morale after the bank cut thousands of jobs in the Merrill deal. They also criticized Lewis' failure to line up a successor.

Others said the bank was losing an important figure.

"Ken is a great leader," former Bank of America chief financial officer Marc Oken said. "He has accomplished a lot over time as CEO. I have nothing but admiration for what he has done for the company." ...

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