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Bank of America    

Bank of America (BofA) NYSE: BAC, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the third largest commercial bank in the United States of America, measured in assets. It was founded in 1874 in Charlotte as Commercial Financial Bank.

Corporate History

The Bank of America that exists today was the result of the purchase (which was structured as a merger) of the San Francisco-based Bank of America by Charlotte-based Nations Bank in 1998. As a part of the merger, Nations Bank acquired and assumed the Bank of America name. Orignally, the famous banking innovator, Amadeo Peter Giannini who founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco, ultimately bought out the Bank of America, and began using the acquired bank's name, i.e. Bank of America, in 1929.

NationsBank was a large banking corporation headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. Commercial National Bank (CNB), the earliest forerunner of NationsBank, opened for business in Charlotte in 1874. In 1957, Commercial National merged with its longtime rival in Charlotte, American Trust Co., forming American Commercial Bank.

American Commercial changed its name to North Carolina National Bank (NCNB) in 1960 after its acquisition of Greensboro-based Security National Bank. In the early 1970s, it reorganized as the leading subsidiary of NCNB Corporation. NCNB expanded beyond North Carolina for the first time in 1982, when it bought Lake City, Florida-based [[First National Bank of Lake City]. Hugh McColl became Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NCNB the following year.

In 1988, NCNB's assets grew to $60 billion ($60,000,000,000) after it bought the failed First RepublicBank of Dallas, Texas from the FDIC. NCNB became NationsBank in 1991 after acquiring Atlanta-based C&S/Sovran Corp. NationsBank's assets grew to $118 billion following the merger. In 1993, NationsBank acquired Baltimore based Maryland National Bank and Washington, DC based American Security Bank. In 1996, NationsBank acquired Saint Louis-based Boatmen's Bancshares for $9.6 billion. The resultant bank became the largest in the American South, with assets of $225 billion and 2,600 branches, stretching from North Carolina to New Mexico. The following year, NationsBank acquired Florida's largest bank, Jacksonville-based Barnett Bank, for $15.5 billion, increasing the company's total assets to $284 billion. In 1998 it acquired Bank of America.

Amadeo Giannini was the founder of the modern day Bank of America NT&SA. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake his Bank of Italy became a leader of the San Francisco banking community by providing loans to those struck by the disaster. The California-based BankAmerica was established in 1929 as an outcome of the merger between Amadeo Giannini's Bank of Italy (USA) and Bank of America, Los Angeles. By merging with BankAmerica of Los Angeles, Giannini, based in San Francisco, gained access to the Los Angeles financial market and rights to the name BankAmerica.3.

While the names of many nationally chartered banks end with the initials 'N.A.' (National Association), Giannini picked a unique ending, National Trust and Savings Association, or NT&SA, because he wanted the name to highlight the different functions of the bank. BoA was the only NT&SA in the country. The bank was soon the largest in California.
Giannini also sought to build a national bank, expanding into most of the western states as well as into the insurance industry, under the aegis of his holding company, Transamerica. Bank of America NS&SA also had banking relationships in internatonal financial markets. With the passage of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, banks were prohibited from owning non-banking subsidiaries such as insurance companies, and BankAmerica and Transamerica were separated, with the latter company continuing in the insurance business. However, federal banking regulators prohibited Bank of America's interstate banking activity, and Bank of America's domestic banks outside of California were forced into a separate company that eventually became First Interstate Bancorp, which was acquired by Wells Fargo Corp. in 1996. It was not until the 1980s with a change in federal banking legislation and regulaton that BankAmerica was again able to expand its domestic consumer banking activity outside of California. California was the nation's fastest growing state during the post-World War II boom, with the highest use of checking accounts (partially driven by many soldiers being paid via bank accounts during WWII), resulting in BankAmerica being swamped by checks. By 1949, the branches had to close at 2:00pm in order to process the bookkeeping by 5:00 p.m. To cope with the transaction volume, the bank invested heavily in information technology and is generally credited, together with GE and SRI, with inventing modern centralized bank operations, along with a number of financial transaction processing technologies such as automatic check processing, account numbers Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR). Based upon these technologies, credit cards were able to be linked directly to individual bank accounts. Because of the efficiency of these technologies, the bank had significantly lower administrative costs than other banks and was able to expand until it was the world's largest bank in the early 1970s.

In 1959, it invented the bank credit card, the BankAmericard, which changed its name to VISA in 1975. A consortium of other California banks came up with Master Charge (now MasterCard) in order to compete with BankAmericard.

Expansion Outside of California

Following passage of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1967, BankAmerica Corp. was established for the purpose of owning BankAmerica and its subsidiaries.

BankAmerica expanded outside California in 1983 with its acquisition of Seafirst Corp. of Seattle, Washington and its wholly owned banking subsidiary, Seattle-First National Bank. Seafirst was at risk of seizure by the federal government after becoming insolvent due to a series of bad loans to the oil industry. BankAmerica continued to operate its new subsidiary as Seafirst rather than Bank of America until its merger with NationsBank.

BankAmerica was dealt huge losses in 1986 and 1987 due to the placement of a series of bad loans in the Third World, particularly in Latin America. The company fired its CEO, Sam Armacost, although Armacost blamed the problems on his predecessor, A.W. (Tom) Clausen, who was then appointed to replace Armacost. The losses resulted in a huge decline of BankAmerica stock, making it vulnerable to a hostile takeover.

First Interstate Bancorp of Los Angeles (which had originated from banks once owned by BofA), launched such a bid in the fall of 1986, although BankAmerica rebuffed it, mostly by selling its FinanceAmerica subsidiary to Chrysler and by selling the brokerage firm Charles Schwab and Co. back to Mr. Schwab. On the day of the 1987 stock market crash, BankAmerica was trading at $8 per share, although by 1992 it had rebounded mightily to become one of the biggest gainers of that half-decade. The selling of the corporate headquarters building in downtown San Francisco to raise capital was a symbolic blow to the bank.

BankAmerica's next big acquisition came in 1992. BankAmerica acquired its California rival, Security Pacific Corp. and its subsidiary Security Pacific National Bank in California and other banks in Arizona, Idaho, Oregon and Washington (which Security Pacific had acquired in a series of acquisitions in the late 1980s). This was, at the time, the biggest bank acquisition in history. Federal regulators nevertheless forced the sale of Security Pacific's Washington subsidiary, Rainier Bank, because the combination of Seafirst and Rainier would have given BankAmerica too large a share of the market in that state. Later that year, BankAmerica expanded into Nevada by acquiring Valley Bank of Nevada.

In 1994, BankAmerica acquired the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Co. of Chicago, which had become federally-owned as part of the same oil industry debacle that had brought down Seafirst. At the time, no bank had the resources to bail out Continental; the federal government forced to operate the bank for nearly a decade. Illinois at that time outlawed branch banking, so Bank of America Illinois was a single-unit bank until the 21st century. Bank of America moved its national lending department to Chicago in an effort to establish a financial beachhead in the region. Even after these later mergers, the Midwest remains a part of the country without other Bank of America branches.

These mergers helped BankAmerica Corp. once again become the largest U.S. bank holding company in terms of deposits, but the company fell to second place in 1997 behind fast-growing NationsBank Corp. and to third in 1998, also behind North Carolina's First Union Corp.

Bank of America Today

Bank of America Corporate Center, the tallest building in Charlotte, North Carolina, houses the company's headquarters.The purchase of BankAmerica Corp. by NationsBank Corp. was the largest bank acquistion in history at that time. While the deal was technically a purchase of Bank of America by Nationsbank, the deal was structured as a merger. Despite the mammoth size of the two companies, federal regulators insisted only upon the divestiture of 13 branches in New Mexico, in towns that would be left with only a single bank following the combination. This is because branch divestures are only required if the combined company will have a larger than 25 percent FDIC deposit market share in a particular state or 10 percent deposit market share overall. Following the $64.8 billion ($64,800,000,000) acquisition of BankAmerica by NationsBank, Bank of America had combined assets of $570 billion, and 4,800 branches in 22 states.

In 2001, Bank of America CEO and chairman Hugh McColl stepped down and named Ken Lewis as his successor. Lewis's greater focus on financial discipline and efficiency contrasted greatly with the expansionary mergers and acquisition strategy of his predecessor.

In 2004, Bank of America Corp. acquired Boston, Massachusetts-based FleetBoston for $47 billion to solidify Bank of America's position as the bank with the largest FDIC rated deposit market share in the United States with $513 billion in deposits well ahead of the number 2 bank holding company, newly-merged JPMorgan Chase-Bank One with $353 billion in deposits and number 3 Wells Fargo & Co. with $228 billion. (Deposits as of June 30, 2003.) The combined Bank of America and Fleet have 5,700 branches serving 35 million customers in 29 states. After the merger with FleetBoston Financial, roughly 1 out of every 10 dollars on deposit in a commercial bank and savings and loan were deposits of Bank of America.

Although Bank of America Corp. is much larger than its closest rivals in terms of deposit share, other financial services companies are larger on the basis of assets, profits and market capitalisation.

Bank of America is currently constructing a massive new headquarters for its New York City operations. The skyscaper will be located on 42nd Street and Avenue of the Americas, and will feature state-of-the-art "green" - environmentally friendly - technology throughout its 2.1 million square feet (200,000 mē) of office space.

On June 30, 2005 the bank announced it would purchase credit card giant MBNA for $35 billion in cash and stock. Completion of the deal in the fourth quarter of 2005 will propel BofA past JPMorgan Chase to become the largest issuer of credit cards in the U.S. MBNA will be renamed Bank of America Card Services and be will headquartered in Delaware after the merger is complete in the second half of 2005.

Bank of America Corporation (the holding company) in 2005 has over $1.2 Trillion in assets.

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