Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan knows a thing or two about leading under pressure.
A graduate of Brown University and the University of Notre Dame Law School, Moynihan joined FleetBoston in April 1993 as Deputy General Counsel, and came to Bank of America following its acquisition of FleetBoston. He then served in a number of roles at BofA, and helped revive the investment bank from big trading losses.
Moynihan was named CEO of Bank of America in 2010 during the global financial crisis. There were some embarrassing missteps at first: In 2011, the bank failed its first Federal Reserve “stress test.” The company also came under fire from consumer groups and President Obama for its decision to impose large credit card fees. And in a submission to the Fed requesting approval for its plan to buy back shares and boost its dividend, BofA committed a $4 billion accounting error that inflated its reported capital.
Soon after, analysts predicted that the company wouldn’t survive a mortgage scandal that arose via BofA’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch and Countrywide subsidiaries. As a result, BofA was sued for $10 billion by AIG for losses it claimed on “fraudulent” mortgages—and BofA’s shares fell to $7, half their value from the start of 2011.
Despite the turmoil, Moynihan refused to bow to pressure and bankrupt the Countrywide subsidiary, issue new shares, or sell branches. Help arrived when Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway purchased $5 billion in BofA preferred shares—a sign to clients that the country’s top investor had faith in the bank’s leadership.
Since then, Berkshire Hathaway made over $20 billion in capital gains and dividends on its BofA stock and now ranks as the largest shareholder at around 11 percent. “BofA goes back to the early 1900s and has an amazing history,” said Buffet. “Brian has restored its former glory. And I’m very happy.”
Although the company did have to cut staffing and branches along the way, Moynihan still focused on expanding the bank’s capabilities through technology.
His efforts have earned him the respect of colleagues and numerous accolades, including being named Chief Executive magazine’s 2020 Chief Executive of the Year, a title voted on by peer CEOs. Past winners include Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Michael Dell, A.G. Lafley, Marillyn Hewson, John Chambers, Bob Iger, Anne Mulcahy, Larry Bossidy, Andy Grove, and Herb Kelleher, among others.
“Brian, starting with the financial crisis, has navigated through difficult times, has transformed Bank of America using technology and knowhow to what it is today,” said Carmine Di Sibio, Global Chairman and CEO, EY Global. “Even in difficult times today, he’s making sure that Bank of America stands by its principles and stands by Brian’s principles. Brian is a courageous leader, but, most of all, he’s a leader who cares about his people and his teammates.”