Hugh McColl, who made his name in banking by building one of the nation's largest financial institutions, is lending his heft to an academic program that should benefit community banks.

McColl, Bank of America's former chairman and chief executive, is working with Queens University in Charlotte to form a course of study that would train students for careers at smaller institutions. The curriculum, to be offered by the university's McColl School of Business, will provide instruction on ins and outs of retail and commercial banking.

"Big banks like Bank of America and JPMorgan [Chase]can attract the graduates from large business schools and train them the way they want them to be trained," McColl said in an interview. "Small banks have more difficulty training people, because they don't have extra people. What I believe is missing is broad, generalist training. When you're working in a small bank, you do need to be a generalist."

McColl and the university sought input from a number of community banks in North Carolina and South Carolina. At a recent meeting, representatives from Park Sterling, Carolina Premier, Heritage Community Bank and seven other banks provided suggestions for the curriculum.

The school plans to offer courses in bank management and commercial lending as part of a banking concentration within the finance major, said Ronald Shiffler, dean of the McColl School of Business. Shiffler also plans to establish an internship program to place students at local banks.

McColl, who began his banking career in 1959 as a trainee at B of A predecessor North Carolina National Bank, said he believes his experience at what was once a community bank helped him as he built Bank of America. McColl retired from Bank of America in 2001.

"I had the advantage of going to work for a relatively small bank that had a long training program," McColl said. "I worked in all its departments and got to know all aspects of the bank. It paid off for me as I built the bank into a large bank."

Queens hopes to begin offering the new courses as early as next fall. Shiffler said the university is searching for a former banker to lead the program.

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