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Bank of America: The masters of integration

Bank of America’s next step forward

Bank of America has an enviable track record in making acquisitions work under Ken Lewis’s leadership. The successful integration since purchase of Fleet in 2004 for around $50 billion, and that of MBNA for about $35 billion in 2005, should make shareholders comfortable and competitors nervous about the impact of the US Trust and LaSalle takeovers.

"We have an excellent team of individuals that drive our success in buying and integrating businesses," says Lewis. But it goes beyond that. "I spend more time talking about culture and values than anything else. If people accept those, then you are a long way towards getting integration and success already."

No other bank has been as successful in building a pan-US banking business. Perhaps the bank’s history played a part. For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, banks in the US were fragmented by legislation in terms of the products they could provide and the locations they could operate in. Bankers in North Carolina, however, had an advantage. They were allowed to compete throughout the state, and merge with others to expand their territories.

In 1981, Bank of America helped to change the US banking landscape, as the first firm to find a legal path to acquire a bank across state lines with its move into Florida.

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