Bank of America chairman Hugh L. McColl Jr. says in a recently published interview that the company is seeking to open banking centers in Chicago, New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.
The move would complement the companys efforts to attract customers via the Internet and the shuttering of Bank of America offices in parts of the country where it already has a sizable presence.
The new sites will be full financial centers that will offer a multitude of products not just bank accounts but insurance and investment management products and well have salespeople doing it, Mr. McColl said in an interview published in the September issue of U.S. Banker magazine, a sister publication of American Banker.
Lawrence Cohn, a banking analyst at Ryan, Beck Southeast Research, said the offices would not be branches in the traditional sense. The financial centers would concentrate on wealth management and personal trust.
Mr. Cohn acknowledged that the markets earmarked by Mr. McColl are among the most competitive in the country, with many banks already established in each. However, he said, thats where the money is.
Bank of America has a big private banking business, and they want to expand in that business, Mr. Cohn said. Its right in line with their strategy.
Bank of America, the nations second-largest banking company, has 4,450 branches.
With its emphasis on opening multipurpose stores, Bank of America is following the lead of Citigroup Inc., the countrys largest banking company, with $792 billion of assets and 1,400 branches. Mr. McColl said in the interview that Citigroup is a formidable competitor, as is Merrill Lynch & Co.
Mr. McColl also spoke admiringly of retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot and said these superstore chains are meeting customer needs in a way that has affected the banking industry. There are changes going on right in front of our face, he said, and theres no reason to think they wont be real.
On the other hand, Mr. McColl rejected the idea that Internet start-ups or single-product companies pose a viable threat to Bank of America. The $680 billion-asset company is growing faster than all the start-ups, he said. We are adding 100,000 to 125,000 Internet customers a month. About 20% or 30% of them are brand-new.
The new offices are to establish a physical presence to back up these Internet efforts, according to Ronald Mandle, a banking analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
I dont think they are going to spend a lot of money opening the centers, Mr. Mandle said. Its not going to be a broad-based banking effort. But it will provide convenience for some of their more senior employees and customers in places Bank of America already has wholesale operations.
Robert Stickler, a Bank of America spokesman, said the company plans to enter those markets in nontraditional ways. He would not elaborate.