You’ve been through several economic cycles in the 40 years you’ve been at Bank of America. How have things changed in the Washington area?
The company that I joined could only operate in the District of Columbia — interstate banking laws at the time did not permit [banking] across borders, so many people who worked in the city and lived in the suburbs had two checking accounts. It was just a different time and place.
The regulations that were in place at that time limited what a bank could do, versus what a savings and loan [association] could do, versus what a brokerage to do. It was a very, very protected environment. Beginning in the late ’70s, lots of that began to change and it’s resulted in a very different landscape.
How have the most recent downturn and recovery compared to those in the past?
We had a recession here in the late ’80s, early '90s. At the time, I could walk from my office at 15th and Pennsylvania over to Metro Center and could pass literally the storefronts of five different financial institutions that had just stopped doing business.
This time hasn’t been any fun, but it hasn’t been impactful in the same sense. There has been a much bigger impact on consumers this time around, since much of a typical consumer’s wealth is tied up with their homes.
What has loan growth in the region been like?
It’s spotty. It kind of depends on the kind of loans we’re talking about. We’ve had growth but it hasn’t been dramatic in general. To make a loan, you have to have someone who’s looking for one, and some of our customers are being cautious right now.
I think in general, we’re moving along. It’s certainly not a dramatic bounce back, but it is moving in the right direction.
What about in terms of commercial real estate? Are we seeing any trends there?
Commercial real estate has been certainly much more stable here, particularly in the District, than in most parts of the country. The construction business is quite good for us, and there continue to be great opportunities on the commercial side as well.
How has the Dodd-Frank Act and other recent regulations affected Bank of America?
It continues to evolve. Dodd-Frank mandates a tremendous number of new rules and regulations that need to be put into place by regulators. The whole industry continues to pay attention to what’s going on.
It’s just been interesting to see the back and forth on all of these issues. One of the things that seems to be coming is higher capital regulations, with an emphasis on boosting capital.
In the wake of the recession, some have pointed to Bank of America and other ‘too big to fail banks’ as contributing to the crisis. How has Bank of America responded?
We’ve streamlined our business model. We feel like we’ve made a lot of progress.
It’s such a great market we have here. But of course, it’s not without certain challenges.
If you look back 40 years, there were about 1 million people in the metro area. There are now 4 million. And that’s all been pretty good for banking.