Manifest Destiny or Manifest Ego?

As I see it, this is the case for banking’s greatest ego trip:

  • NationsBank and BankAmerica are huge.
  • It would take hundreds of people working thousands of hours to figure out the wisdom of putting together two of the nation’s largest banks.
  • Hundreds of people working on such a deal couldn’t keep their mouths shut about it.
  • Loose lips sink ships, as the old World War I poster read, and they also sink deals.
  • There were no leaks, and the stock market was as surprised as the branch managers.

So here’s what I figure. I think the largest deal in banking history came about when a couple of guys with, shall we say, ample self-images, had a few phone conversations that covered precious little beyond what the bank would be called, who would be CEO, where the headquarters would be, and what each of them would receive in cash compensation and stock options.

Now you tell me: Is that an ego trip or is that a well-considered, thoroughly researched consolidation that fully evaluates the benefits of the deal to the shareholders, the employees, and, heck, the nation and the world?

Ken Elkins lives and writes in Charlotte, the improbable world headquarters of the soon-to-be largest U.S. bank. Ken has followed the growth of NationsBank from a North Carolina wannabe to today’s market leader, and his article on the merger looks at the NationsBank/BankAmerica transaction in a less-jaded way than I have.

And I have to admit, whether this really is a match made in heaven or a crass marriage of convenience, the pairing of arguably the nation’s top bank franchises is fascinating and even compelling. In his comments to writer Elkins, NationsBank’s Hugh McColl, Jr. makes a convincing case, as he usually does when he commits Nations to ever-bigger deals.

No matter how well-thought out this one was, and no matter what the motivations of the principals were, it looks like nationwide banking is finally here, and with a competitor likely to define the face of our industry in the next decade.


Bill King

Founder and Chairman of the Executive Committee

Bill King founded DirectorCorps, Inc., the publisher of Bank Director magazine and served as chairman until 2014. He has served on the boards of both New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq companies and was chairman of Private Business, Inc. from its founding through its IPO. Until its acquisition by Yahoo, he was chairman of Rivals.com and chaired the 247Sports.com board from founding until it was acquired by CBSinteractive. Bill serves on the boards of several private companies including StrategyCorps and Journal Communications, and he is active in many non-profit organizations. Bill is a magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University and holds a JD degree from Vanderbilt University School of Law.

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