BUSINESS

Bank Of America CEO Says Bank's Growth Will Come From Abroad

09/14/2010 05:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Speaking at at an industry conference today, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said his bank, the country's largest by assets, will continue selling unessential assets and will focus on global expansion.

At today's installment of the Barclays Capital 2010 Global Financial Services Conference, Moynihan's message of, in his words, "hard work and good execution," was expected in light of the Wall Street Journal's interview with the CEO this morning. "We're just hard at work transforming our company from the excess of the economic crisis. There's no new news here," Moynihan said in his remarks, which were broadcast on the web.

As the WSJ points out, though, Moniyan's conservative position is itself news: Under the previous CEO, Kenneth Lewis, the bank spent more than $120 billion on acquisitions, including the purchase of the now-infamous mortgage lender Countrywide Financial. Moynihan's plan, he said, is to hunker down and strengthen the core business.

"We reviewed our franchise, selling off parts that didn't fit with the core customer basis, in order to focus on what we have: the best franchise in financial services," he said today. And in what was perhaps the greatest understatement of his speech, he continued, "We are a very different company than we were three years ago. Our franchise is complete. We don't need to acquire anything."

Be that as it may, Moynihan has global ambitions for the company, especially in its investment banking division. Bank of America emerged from the financial crisis with a strengthened investment banking arm, thanks to its hurried purchase of Merrill Lynch in September 2008. The WSJ reported today that the Merrill-BofA combination hasn't produced stunning results.

But Moynihan, who said his investment bank is already second in the world in terms of fees collected, hopes to get even stronger. His bank collects 75 percent of its fees from U.S. customers and 25 percent abroad, he said. The key to growth, he added, is to increase the bank's global presence.

"If we get to 50-50, I'm confident we'll move to number one investment banking in the world."

The New York Times reported today that Bank of America hired four new bankers in Europe. Indeed, Moynihan said that over the last year and a half, his company has hired about 800 people outside the U.S.

"Even as a large company, we have lots of room to grow this company," he said.

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