Magazine article American Banker

Merger Days over, B of A Puts Focus on Products, Customers

Magazine article American Banker

Merger Days over, B of A Puts Focus on Products, Customers

Article excerpt

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For the first year in almost a decade, executives at Bank of America Corp. do not have to worry about closing a merger. And James Hance Jr., vice chairman and chief financial officer, says he couldn't be happier.

"Since 1992, we have basically had a megamerger every year," he said. "This is the first year in a long time that we are not facing the disruptions of a big deal, and frankly, it is nice not to have to worry about it."

Times have changed at Bank of America, the $633 billion-asset company created by a string of industry-shaping deals. In an interview at corporate headquarters here last week, Mr. Hance called the business it has built in the Sun Belt and on the West Coast "unmatchable." He said 2000 will be the year when the dust begins to settle, the company steps away from mergers, and the public gets a better picture of Bank of America.

"I see us sitting in the ideal position," he said. "We are particularly strong and particularly big, but we are not very mature, so we have opportunities to grow. It's a nice way to be."

Integration work remains to be done on the 1998 merger of NationsBank and BankAmerica. The conversion of back-office computer systems in California has been put off until 2001, but the combined company's new brand and products will appear in the branches out West this year.

Mr. Hance said the bulk of the resources that in past years went to integration are now focused on customer service. Boosting training and minimizing turn-over in the branches are the main priorities.

"The public has gone through a lot of change, and I doubt you could find anyone whose bank has not been impacted in the past five years," he said. "The more we can do now to add stability to our customer base, the better we will be."

He said these efforts are beginning to bear fruit. Bank of America historically has been the target of competitors that would try to pick off customers displaced in the big mergers; now it is gaining runoff business from others' recent deals in California and St. …

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