Benito Almanza Arizona State President Company: Bank of America - AZ Business Magazine Sept/Oct 2010

CEO Series: Benito Almanza

Benito Almanza
Title: Arizona State President
Company: Bank of America

How would you assess the banking industry’s reactions to the new financial reform law? What are the industry’s biggest concerns, particularly in regards to derivatives and less onerous regulation on small banks?
Bank of America has generally supported reforms, including the formation of a new consumer protection agency. While this reform will ultimately have an effect on many businesses across Bank of America and other financial service companies, customers and clients should not expect any abrupt changes as a result of this legislation. The full impact and scope of the bill may take years to be felt, as regulators establish hundreds of new rules to implement the law.

The year 2009 was a tough one for Bank of America in terms of the federal bailout and executive shakeup. How has repaying the bailout and installing a new CEO affected the company’s operations and public image?
In December, Bank of America took a series of important actions to move our company forward. We repaid the entire $45 billion preferred stock investment provided under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), plus interest. A few days later, Brian Moynihan was selected to lead our company. He has a level of credibility and broad-based experience few can rival, having led every major line of business in financial services, including wealth management, corporate and investment banking, and consumer and small business banking.

As Arizona president for B of A, how have you — and your peers from other large banks — addressed the concerns Main Street has about Wall Street?
The industry understands that our well-being is interconnected with the health and vitality of the economy and the communities we serve. It is not in any companies’ interest to put profit over common sense. Nor is it in anyone’s interest to lose sight of the value our industry provides among legitimate concerns about the difficulties of the recent past. Our challenge for the foreseeable future — and I think we’re moving in the right direction — is to reconcile this and strengthen our financial system by working with leaders and regulators in a spirit of trust and goodwill.

In speaking for my own company, Bank of America has introduced clarity commitments within our card, deposit and mortgage services to make sure customers receive clear and easy to understand language about their relationship with our bank. In addition, our new overdraft fee changes went into effect July 1, whereby we will decline a debit card transaction at the point of sale when there is not enough money in the account for the transaction, and not charge overdraft fees to the customer.

Small businesses are having a difficult time getting loans and various lines of credit. B of A prides itself on its No. 1 SBA-lender status. How important is that role in the economic recovery?
With 4 million small businesses customers — more than any other bank — Bank of America feels a deep sense of responsibility to support them in every way possible. In the first half of 2010, we provided $45.5 billion in loans to small and medium-sized companies, well on our way to meeting our pledge to increase lending by $5 billion over 2009 levels, or $86.4 billion.

We continue to also look for creative ways to help these businesses bridge to a stronger economy. For example, we recently announced a new program that can help as many as 8,000 small businesses obtain $100 million in federal microloans through nonprofit lenders like CDFIs, by providing CDFIs with grants to cover loan loss reserves required to get the SBA/USDA loan capital. This is low-cost, long-term capital for small business microloans nationwide over the next 12 months.

What challenges and opportunities lie ahead for the banking industry in Arizona?
Arizona’s economy will probably be on a slower track than most states because of the significant losses in our housing and jobs markets. That being said, there are many bright spots to look forward to and we must continue to make every good loan we can and focus on opportunities that will help our long-term economic recovery …

    Vital Stats


  • Has been with Bank of America for more than 30 years
  • Responsible for the overall performance of all business banking activities in Arizona
  • Graduate of Stanford University and Santa Clara University
  • Member of the California State Bar Association
  • Member of the U.S. District Court Northern District Association
  • Member of the Greater Phoenix Leadership and Arizona Bankers Association
  • Serves on the board of Phoenix Aviation and Teach for America
  • www.bankofamerica.com

Arizona Business Magazine Sept/Oct 2010