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Opinion

Bank of America bets against break-ups

Brian Moynihan is determined to build his big bank, whatever regulators might threaten.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch seems to be defying the industry-wide viewpoint that big financial institutions are going to be broken up. It has launched a plan of attack that involves the firm getting much larger and more complex. Chief executive Brian Moynihan is shooting for being a global force in corporate banking and investment banking and has his next-level-down business heads hiring anyone who can bring in clients in those businesses.

He is ensuring Merrill Lynch’s thundering herd of private-client brokers remains a force, and he also intends to continue with US retail and commercial banking, even as analysts and investors begin to question the long-term return on equity to be derived from the bank’s largest and most defining legacy business. A task in itself, Moynihan also seems intent on building the cross-selling capabilities among the various units so that they become more dependent on each other. If there are those with fears that financial institutions might need to be broken up, Moynihan is apparently not one of them.

This raises a question – does he know more than the rest of us? Moynihan is smart. He is a lawyer by background. He is methodical and does things by the book, and has made sure he is thoroughly involved in what the Federal Reserve and White House are contemplating for the industry, unlike his predecessor, Ken Lewis.

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