Two of Bank of America’s Post-Crisis Leaders Will Retire
Two towering figures who helped steer Bank of America out of the financial crisis a decade ago will retire at the end of the year, the bank said Thursday.
The departures of Anne Finucane, the bank’s vice chair and one of Wall Street’s most powerful women, and Thomas K. Montag, the bank’s hard-charging chief operating officer, open the door for new leadership atop the nation’s second-biggest bank.
Both played crucial roles in restoring profits and rebuilding the company’s image after the bank took a major reputation and financial hit from the collapse of the housing market in 2008. Bank of America’s purchase of the subprime mortgage giant Countrywide Financial during the meltdown made it one of the most vilified players of the crisis. In the decade that followed, the bank paid $76.1 billion in fines, the most among the nation’s biggest banks.
Ms. Finucane, the chief architect of the bank’s image overhaul, will become nonexecutive chair of Bank of America’s European banking arm and join its global advisory council, the bank said. Mr. Montag will also join the council; the bank said succession plans will be announced in weeks.
“I’m very proud that we repaired the reputation of the company,” Ms. Finucane said in an interview. “The management team dug in, and we worked together to improve everything we had power over: the customer experience, the number of businesses we would be in, the culture.”
Ms. Finucane has frequently been the person who the bank turns to when it takes a stand on contentious issues. When it stepped back from financing companies that make military-style assault rifles for civilians in 2018, she articulated the bank’s position. Ms. Finucane did so again when the bank decided to stop lending to firms that run private prisons and detention centers in 2019.
Ms. Finucane even got Brian Moynihan, Bank of America’s low-key chief executive, to appear in a 2018 commercial that aired during “Sunday Night Football” and “This is Us” as part of rebranding campaign. It was the kind of direct personal approach that would have been unthinkable a decade earlier.
“Anne has been a trusted adviser and invaluable partner for many years,” Mr. Moynihan said in a statement. “From her time as one of the few senior women executives in financial services today, she has provided unparalleled strategic vision.”
Ms. Finucane, who leads the bank’s efforts on environmental, social and governance issues, has also rallied financial firms to do more to fight climate change.
“She’s been one of the leaders in helping to open peoples’ eyes” to the role that corporations can play in addressing the climate crisis, said John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy and the former chair of the bank’s advisory council. “She’s very savvy about the course of current events.”
Mr. Montag, who joined the faltering brokerage Merrill Lynch shortly before it was acquired by Bank of America during the height of the mortgage crisis, is a more polarizing figure. He was crucial to rebuilding Bank of America’s profits — for years, he was paid more than Mr. Moynihan — and steered its investment bankers to record fees during the market tumult of 2020, while traders also reaped a windfall from the market volatility caused by the pandemic.
Mr. Moynihan said that Mr. Montag joined the bank at “one of the most challenging periods in financial services history” and skilfully steered it toward responsible growth. “We will remember Tom’s work ethic, innovative thinking and dedication to clients and teammates,” he said.
Mr. Montag has been described by his supporters as intelligent, charismatic and caring. But under his leadership, some employees felt pressure to be in the office even as the bank’s competitors embraced work-from-home policies, or risk not being a “Friend of Tom.”
“It’s rare to find a leader like Tom who combines capital-market expertise and the ability to connect and motivate people,” said Hank Paulson, former Treasury secretary and Goldman Sachs chief. “Clients love working with him, he gets results and he does so with integrity.”
As Mr. Montag helped rebuild the bank’s Wall Street arm after the crisis, Ms. Finucane helped spearhead efforts to convince detractors that Bank of America had become a better corporate citizen.
She oversees public policy for the bank, which this year committed an extra $10 billion to an affordable-housing program through 2025. After George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were killed in police shootings, the bank pledged $1 billion over four years to advance racial equality. And as the debate over the minimum wage heated up, it announced plans to raise its base pay to $25 by 2025, just days before Mr. Moynihan and other bank bosses were scheduled to testify before lawmakers.
An advertising specialist by trade, Ms. Finucane was put in charge of marketing at FleetBoston Financial, a company that was later bought by Bank of America. She was running strategy and marketing for the bank’s chief at the time, Ken Lewis, when the domestic housing market collapsed in 2008.
As her influence grew, Ms. Finucane rose to vice chairwoman in 2015 and was a rare high-level female executive on Wall Street even though she lacked traditional banking experience.
“It’s hard to get away from me if I have a point of view, because I’m just going to keep at it,” Ms. Finucane said. “What I lack in terms of talent, I make up for in terms of stamina.”
Ms. Finucane was born in Massachusetts and cultivated deep ties to Democratic politics. Mr. Kerry is a close friend of Ms. Finucane and her husband, the journalist Mike Barnicle, a regular contributor to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. Christopher J. Dodd, a former Democratic senator from Connecticut, is another family friend.
“There’s something about the water in Massachusetts — they get infused with a political antennae that the rest of us don’t have,” Mr. Dodd said.
Mr. Dodd, the co-author of the Dodd-Frank act that reshaped Wall Street and was bitterly opposed by banks, said Ms. Finucane was a pragmatist who acknowledged that more regulation was inevitable after the Great Recession. Though not a politician, she’s skilled at reading a room, and “she’s a very good judge of people,” he said.
Dina Powell McCormick, a deputy national security adviser during the Trump administration who now leads Goldman’s sustainability and inclusive-growth efforts, said Ms. Finucane’s ability to navigate the worlds of business and government magnified her effectiveness.
“She invests in friends and she invests in women,” said Ms. Powell McCormick, who collaborated with Ms. Finucane on lending initiatives for female entrepreneurs via the Tory Burch Foundation. “I would say she was one of the first to reach out to other women and try to build that community.”
Decked out in colorful scarves, hoop earrings and voluminous short hair, Ms. Finucane said she was undaunted by being one of the few female executives in high-level negotiations on Capitol Hill.
“Sometimes,” she said, “being the different person in the room makes you the person other people feel they can confide in.”
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