BofA’s Ken Lewis Is Going for the Jugular
Hey, he said it, not me. First, the BofA CEO gets his mug on the cover of Forbes accompanied by the coverline "He Wants Your Wallet." Now, he's the focus of a major Page One profile in the Wall Street Journal . The story paints a picture of a man who has spent his entire career fighting for respect, a man who decided to make this year Bank of America's year.
That's where the jugular line came from. According to the article, at a managers meeting earlier this year in New York, Lewis said "This is the time I think we could go for the jugular, really be disruptive and take market share." The story goes on to detail how he's done it, from raising ATM fees to offering no-fee mortgages and free stock trades to buying up part of struggling mortgage lender Countrywide.
The latter move seems to be the one that's generated all the media attention over Lewis. At a time when media was filled with headlines of the bombing home lending business, BofA spent $2 billion to snatch up a large take of Countrywide. Not only did the bank successfully bottom-feed (it earned a $445 million paper profit after Countrywide shares jumped), but Lewis was credited with stablizing the country's credit market.
The WSJ article says this finally put Lewis on a plane with the big boys of finance, a position he has long craved. The article also profiles his rise to the top, including some interesting quotes from his predecessor, Hugh McColl Jr. It's a fascinating read, and in a way it makes our cover feature this month (Bank vs. Bank) that much more timely (Yea, us!). —R.T.