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Sideways: Bank of America – Tom, we hardly knew ye

Bank of America struck a disjointed tone in its announcement that chief operating officer Tom Montag and vice chair Anne Finucane are to retire at the end of the year.

Tom Montag, Bank of America.
Photo: David Hume Kennerly

Tom Montag is often regarded as a holdover from a bygone era when aggressive traders dominated Wall Street banks. He is rarely described in the media without the accompanying epithet “hard-charging”, while profiles often stress his brusque manner and imposing frame.

That image is incomplete. The derivatives business Montag helped to build at Goldman Sachs in New York in the 1990s deployed novel trading techniques to outperform much bigger banks. A stint in Japan was also a success and Montag was global co-head of securities at Goldman by the time he left in 2007, before overhauling trading and investment banking at Bank of America after his arrival in 2008 when the firm bought Merrill Lynch.

Bank of America’s farewell to Montag gave as much space to his role developing sustainable finance and sponsoring diversity and inclusion initiatives as it did to his achievements in sales and trading. That was arguably over-correcting in response to the perception of Montag as a relic of a former age.

The language in the Bank of America release may be a delayed riposte to a profile of Montag in the New York Times in May that accused him of insensitivity – including towards female staff – and prompted speculation that his departure could not be too far away.


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