Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan is our guest this week on Leadership Next, Fortune’s podcast about the changing rules of business leadership. I invited Moynihan to do the podcast back in February, after running into him at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he was chairing a group working on metrics for measuring companies’ commitments to social goals. That the CEO of one of the world’s largest banks thought this was a good use of his time struck me as notable.
Why was he doing it? “Because it’s the right thing to do,” Moynihan said. That’s a standard he’s come back to repeatedly at Bank of America, where he’s raised the minimum wage to $20 an hour, committed hundreds of millions of dollars to the environment, announced a billion dollar commitment to communities of color, and taken strong stands on controversial issues like guns and transgender rights.
A striking example came in 2015, when the state legislature of North Carolina, where Bank of America is based, passed a law limiting transgender access to public bathrooms. That’s the sort of controversial social issue most business leaders would have run from in the past. But Moynihan took a public stand against the law. “We believe in diversity and inclusion in our company. We believe it’s the way to get the best people to be their best selves at work,” he said. “We happened to have our global diversity and inclusion awards ceremony in Charlotte that year, and people said they wouldn’t come. When something affects your teammates, you have to go in a make sure they are comfortable.”
Worth noting that Moynihan took over as CEO in 2010, when Bank of America’s finances and reputation had been badly battered by the financial crisis. He orchestrated an amazing turnaround, documented by Fortune’s Shawn Tully here, even as he worked to boost the bank’s benefits to society. Moynihan says the pandemic has only increased corporate interest in his effort to develop metrics for stakeholder capitalism. The recession has obviously had a more complicated effect on the bank’s finances. Tully masterfully dissects the bank’s latest earnings report here.
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