Author:Baler, Timothy

Sitting down with Bank of America Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan can sound a bit like a visit to the human resources department, where the rubber, essentially, meets the road.

In a recent interview, Moynihan, famous for his battle cry "no excuses," was talking about the ideal corporate board when he veered off course to churn through a list of employee benefits at BofA. Suddenly, he's talking about the $35,000 baseline salary and the healthcare policy that balances the needs of financial, physical and emotional wellness. He mentions the 16-weeks of paid paternal leave that is used, up to 40 percent of the time, by men he says casually. He mentions "sustainability" and "diversity," and says the BofA has "environmental responsibilities." It seems the second largest bank in the country is trying to A) keep up with the times and B) take care of its own.

Shareholders, it turns out, are on a short and critical list of constituent groups Moynihan has to worry about. This list includes employees, the government, customers, communities, the environment and society as a whole. Did we leave anyone out? If so, this is not by design. For Moynihan, the perfect corporate board is made up of experts from a wide range of special interest groups, including minorities, women and "everything in between." Hispanics are on the list, Blacks, Asians, everyone else. In the meantime, "challenge" is a word that frequently comes up, mostly in the context of board members challenging the bank's management to get it right.

Part of Moynihan's job is to remind people that society at large is one of a bank's primary constituencies. Through the power of lending, a bank has a great deal to say about what happens in the private sector--who builds what, where and when. As such, when BofA commits $300 billion in low-carbon business investing by 2030, they are steering society through one of their self-imposed mandates--or wickets--which happens to be a sustainable future. When they move $250 million each year to charities, they are defining who we should help in broad strokes.

If BofA agrees global warming is a problem, people wake up to this news. When they change an employee policy, corporate America takes notice. Bank of America has, in effect, a medium-sized city on its payroll--208,000 people, which is slightly larger than Salt Lake City or Grand Rapids, Michigan. BofA has, according to one online source, 67 million customer relationships--that's 67...

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