Bank of America Corp. knows where it wants to be and late last week detailed how it would get there.
Specifically, the banking company said on Friday that it intends to slash up to 10,000 jobs - nearly 7% of its 150,000-member work force - and then to spend heavily in what it calls growth-potential areas, including the Internet, investment banking, and asset management.
After bulking up over the past few years through a series of acquisitions, today's B of A said it is now ready to move on to the follow-through phase of integration, cutting away layers of repetitive senior- and middle-management jobs and laying the groundwork for growth.
The cuts, announced Friday by chairman and chief executive Hugh L. McColl and telegraphed in the second-quarter earnings report, were expected by industry observers. Analysts say that the company's mix of business lines will not really change in the years ahead, though the personnel cutbacks will make the nation's second-largest bank less top-heavy and free up capital for its investments, they say.
"When you think about how many major mergers, especially on the NationsBank side, that have been done over the last 10 years," the cuts are "not that surprising," said Catherine Murray, analyst with J.P. Morgan Securities.
B of A will take an after-tax charge of $300 million to $350 million in the third quarter to cover severance packages.
The other part of the story the banking company told Friday dealt with where the company is headed.
Bank of America has talked plenty in recent months about the importance of its Internet presence and now will put its money where its mouth is by plunking down $70 million during the next six months to beef up e-commerce initiatives. As part of that investment, banking offices and call centers of the Charlotte, N.C., company will see Internet technology upgrades as well.
It will also spend $25 million to pump up the Bank of America brand. And the company is looking to accelerate development of its investment banking platform in the United States, Asia, and Europe.
Mr. McColl said B of A will add to its asset management business by opening about 10 private banking offices in what he calls "high-potential" markets like California. Also on deck is increased spending in the company's credit card and payment businesses, he said.
As part of its recent retooling, B of A said in June that it plans to close hundreds of branches over the next few years because of the rising popularity of online banking.
"We have been saying for some time that our days of growth by merger and acquisition are behind us," Mr. McColl said in a statement. "To date, despite our many successes in individual businesses, we have not made the degree of progress we would like toward realizing that potential."
He added: "We've assembled the right parts, but after years of additions, our resulting structure is neither as efficient, nor as effective as it needs to be. We're going to fix it in order to take advantage of our revenue opportunities."
A big aspect of that fix was detailed to B of A employees, who were told Friday by senior management of the massive job cuts.
Morale among some of the California rank and file is already low, a former management employee said.
A former West Coast technology executive of Bank of America said that if the bank offers layoff packages "the folks on the West Coast will leave in a stampede, in a herd." Roughly 10 staff members have left the group this year, said the executive, who added that morale has been sapped by a deep-rooted sense that all the decision-making is left to executives in Charlotte.
The company declined to give specifics Friday about where staff reductions would come. It would only say they would be made across all the company's lines of businesses. Analysts also could not shed light on what areas would be affected mainly because employees have not learned all of the details of the shakeout.
Layoffs announced by companies fresh off blockbuster deals are not uncommon, analysts said.
"What happens in these big megamergers is that you keep middle management around to ensure the work gets done, to ensure the customers are happy, and to ensure you hold on to the revenues," said Thomas McCandless, an analyst with CIBC World Markets. When the timing is right, he said, the ax usually falls. "There are a lot of intentional redundancies during a merger integration," Mr. McCandless said. "It is not uncommon that once the integration is essentially complete, management comes back with a second wave of head-count reductions."
Since April 1998, when NationsBank Corp. announced it would buy BankAmerica Corp. and change its name to Bank of America Corp., its stock price has plunged 44%; it was $43 at the start of the second half this year. Over the same period, the American Banker index of the 50 largest banks fell 16.6%.
B of A's market value also has been stung by higher costs from previous expansions of its investment banking operations, narrowing interest margins, general investor disfavor with bank stocks, and, most recently, credit quality.
Helen Stock and Laura Mandaro contributed to this article.
From Our Archive:
- Credit Worry Takes Luster Off 8% Gain At B of A - July 18, 2000
- B of A Investment Bank Unit Seeks More Clout - June 30, 2000
- B of A Will Acquire The Rest of Marsico - June 30, 2000
- Bank of America Stock Falls Amid Credit Concerns - June 29, 2000
- 'Net' Growth Spurs B of A To Shut 100s Of Branches - June 21, 2000
- B of A Florida Ops Chief Announces Early Exit - June 19, 2000
- B of A Names Taylor Unit President, Realigns Regional Posts - June 8, 2000
- Banks Fall as Downgrades Hit B of A, Wells, Firstar - June 6, 2000
- Report Says Good Merger Targets in Short Supply - June 1, 2000
- B of A Plans Portal for Services to Workers - May 23, 2000
- B of A Adds an Investment Banking Unit - May 16, 2000