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Bank of America says it’s ready to grow again

This news story was published on September 11, 2012.
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By Andrew Dunn, The Charlotte Observer –

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bank of America Chief Financial Officer Bruce Thompson said Monday that the Charlotte bank is essentially done with the massive asset sell-off that dominated the past two years and bumped it from being the largest U.S. bank.

“We’re largely reset,” Thompson told investors at a financial services conference hosted by Barclays. “We’re focused at this point on looking to grow.”

Since CEO Brian Moynihan took the helm in early 2010, Bank of America has been selling off portfolios and units it deems are not core to its business. In total, the bank’s shed more than $50 billion in assets through 20 separate transactions.

That’s included everything from the sale of Balboa Insurance, to credit card portfolios in Spain and the United Kingdom, to the bank’s stakes in BlackRock, China Construction Bank and Santander.

Last month, Bank of America announced that it had sold Merrill Lynch’s overseas wealth management unit to Swiss private bank Julius Baer Group.

The bank says these moves have helped boost liquidity and generated billions in new capital. They also helped allow JPMorgan Chase & Co. to overtake the bank as the nation’s largest.

Now, Thompson said the bank is ready to increase its commercial loan portfolio. Some of that may come from buying loans from European banks looking to unload them, as Wells Fargo has done recently.

The bank is still looking to cut costs, with a target of reducing expenses by $8 billion per year by 2015, including about 30,000 job cuts. One investor asked how the bank would be able to increase its revenue while trimming down.

Thompson said the bank was still hiring financial advisers and bankers to serve affluent retail customers.

“We’re very sensitive to not just looking at expenses,” Thompson said. “We’re investing in those areas where we look to drive revenues going forward.”

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