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The leader Bank of America needs

The US bank’s succession planning is turning into a bad joke. But it still has time to get the punchline right by looking outside for its next leader.

The negative reaction to testimony given to the US Congress in November by Brian Moynihan, a leading executive at Bank of America, about the bank’s takeover of Merrill Lynch has led some to count him out of the race for the chief executive’s chair.

Truth is, Moynihan should never have been in the running for the job in the first place.

That is not a reflection of Moynihan’s capabilities. He’s a talented executive with a stellar career within the Bank of America group; he has managed most of the core areas of the bank: wealth management, investment banking and, most recently, the consumer business. At any other time, his CV would mark him out as an outstanding candidate for the role.

But the last thing chairman Walter Massey and his board need as a successor to outgoing Ken Lewis is another pugnacious Bank of America lifer who rubs politicians the wrong way.

Indeed, strong arguments can be made against the credentials of all of the internal candidates for the role at this time. Tom Montag, head of the investment bank, has no experience of consumer banking, still the core of BofA’s business. Sallie Krawcheck, head of wealth management, is barely through the door and does not yet have the necessary gravitas or experience for the top role.

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