The life of Brian
Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan says, “It doesn’t all break your way all the time, so you’ve got to just power through it.”
He has the look of an athlete, compact with broad shoulders. He also has something of a pre-game focus, a quiet intensity, and gives the impression, even as he answers questions, that he has his eye on the ball and he’s not forgetting for a moment that right now he’s involved in the biggest game of his career.
At just 49, Brian Moynihan is engaged in the complicated task of integrating Merrill Lynch into Bank of America.
A graduate of Brown University and the University of Notre Dame Law School, Moynihan joined FleetBoston in April 1993 as deputy general counsel, and came to Bank of America following its acquisition of FleetBoston.
He arrived at his present position as the head of Bank of America’s Global Banking and Wealth Management in January, after Bank of America’s $50 billion acquisition of Merrill Lynch and the departure of Merrill’s CEO John Thain.
“He has proved in difficult environments he is very capable,” said Anthony DiNovi, co-president of Boston private-equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners LP, in a Wall Street Journal article by Dan Fitzpatrick and Suzanne Craig. The article addressed Moynihan’s emergence as a right-hand man and potential successor to Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis.
DiNovi, who has worked with Moynihan on past deals, also said, “When Ken has a tough job at hand he turns to Brian, and Brian has always been there for him.”
Moynihan, who grew up in a small town in Ohio, lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts with his wife, Susan Berry, whom he met while he was at Brown, and their three children. He credits Susan’s family, along with playing rugby (which has taken him to Ireland on occasion), with bringing him up to speed on Irish culture.
“My wife’s grandmother is from Ireland so she’s more the classic sort of Boston Irish – the Clancy brothers, the Irish humor and all that stuff,” he says, adding that he’s been at many St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Southie. His own family immigrated in the 1850s to upstate New York and grew vegetables.
Our meeting took place on the afternoon of June 15, at the newly constructed Bank of America Tower at Avenue on the Americas in Midtown Manhattan. The massive steel and glass structure – a one billion dollar project – located on Avenue of the Americas – would seem to signal Bank of America’s confidence that it will weather this current financial crisis.
As I receive my visitor’s pass from Security and find my way into the inner sanctum of the largest bank in the United States, passing through a futuristic set of glass doors, I cannot help but think of Moynihan’s ancestors being processed by immigration officials after landing in New York. They could hardly have foreseen a future that included anything like this. But it is a tribute to those hardscrabble ancestors, and perhaps because he had inherited some of their tenacity and understanding “that it doesn’t all break your way all the time, so you’ve got to just power through it,” that Moynihan took time out from his hectic schedule to talk to Irish America, and agreed to give the Keynote Address at our annual Wall Street 50 dinner on August 24.