Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A decade on, B of A returns

Okay, I find this amusing:
Bank of America is making a run at building a business in the heart of Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank country.

The nation’s second-largest bank just opened a new branch in the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis, is beefing up its Minnesota business lending presence and will add a dozen ATMs and three new branches in the metro area.

“In some ways, we’re growing before it’s happened because we think it’s that important of a market,” said Larry Kloth, the bank’s market president for Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Most people don't know it, but B of A was here before. I worked for B of A as a business program analyst for about three years. I lost my job when they closed their facility in Bloomington in 2006. The stated reason for leaving Minnesota was that the loan center was "out of footprint," meaning that the company didn't have any regular banking presence in the state, so it wanted to consolidate its operations in markets where the bank had a presence. As many long-time readers of this feature know, I had a chance to keep my job if I were willing to move to Portland, Oregon with B of A, but ultimately decided against it, because my kids were young and I didn't want to disrupt their lives with a cross-country move. Chuckwagon Boy, who comments here from time to time, was a colleague of mine in Bloomington who ended up making the move. This blog began during my lunch hour when I worked for B of A.

It was an odd business decision for B of A to close their facility here, since it was the most successful mortgage loan processing facility in the company. Although my current gig is a better use of my talents, I had more fun working for B of A than anywhere else I've been in my career. It was a go-go time in the banking industry and we were doing great business in our channel, corporate relocation, We had a great team and the work was fast-paced and challenging. The larger problems in the financial industry were coming, but in 2005 things were great. And I can say this -- we weren't cheating, like some of our competitors. We weren't doing stated income loans and we weren't doing subprime work. We looked at it more than once, but it wasn't our thing.

B of A took a lot of shots to its reputation in the financial crisis that came about later on, but I've always thought many of the criticisms were unfair. They made one very bad decision, which was acquiring Countrywide, whose portfolio was riddled with bad loans of the sort we avoided in Bloomington, but the shotgun wedding fiasco with Merrill Lynch was something that B of A was essentially forced to do.

I can't say that Bank of America is a perfect business, by any means. They've made plenty of mistakes and their management has been short sighted on many occasions. Large corporations are generally mercenary in their instincts and I'm certain that the guy in Charlotte who made the decision to close our facility ten years ago didn't give the human impact of his decision much thought. I also don't know whether B of A will do well in this market, considering the dominating presence that both Wells Fargo and US Bank have. Still, I have fond memories of my tenure with Bank of America. I'm glad they've finally returned.


Chuckwagon Boy said...

It was a great time, Mr. D.! Our center was awesome and we did a great job with the Relocation LOB. Even when it was moved to Oregon we did $2.1 billion of business in 2007 - before it was transferred to Texas due to the Countrywide purchase. CW promptly screwed it up and the Relocation LOB was extinguished. So if B of A is coming back to MN maybe they need to let some of the old pros run it. :)

Mr. D said...

So if B of A is coming back to MN maybe they need to let some of the old pros run it. :)

They've got our numbers, I'm guessing. The Countrywide purchase is a story worth telling some time. A cautionary tale, to be sure.