Bank of America’s Moynihan points to signs of economic recovery in 2021

BANK OF AMERICA CORP. Chairman and CEO Brian T. Moynihan offered an optimistic outlook for 2021 during an address at the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce 30th Annual Celebration held virtually on Wednesday. / SCREENSHOT

WOONSOCKET – Bank of America Corp. Chairman and CEO Brian T. Moynihan offered a rosy outlook for 2021 predicated upon the country’s ability to “win the war” against a still-surging virus.

Moynihan was the keynote speaker at the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce 30th Annual Celebration on Wednesday. The virtual event, livestreamed from the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket, included a prerecorded interview between Moynihan and Kevin Tracy, Bank of America market executive and former chairman of the Chamber’s board of directors. 

Strong gross domestic product growth – Bank of America economists project a 4% to 6% increase in 2021 – as well as data about the bank’s consumers suggest recovery is on the horizon, Moynihan said. Specifically, the $330 billion across savings, deposit and other accounts with the bank as of January represents an 8% increase over a year ago, roughly on par with the 9% increase in account funds from January 2019 to January 2020. 

“Consumers had to shift behaviors of where they spend, but they’re spending, in aggregate, as much money,” Moynihan said.

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Any recovery, however, is contingent upon continued rollout of the vaccine, along with the economic stimulus bills and Federal Reserve actions that have thus far proven critical to a floundering economy, he said.

While Moynihan was confident the economy can and will come back from a devastating year, some things will never be the same. Among them, increasing reliance on digital services and channels, particularly salient in the banking industry, which has reported significant increases in digital banking as brick-and-mortar branches shutter.

In 2020, Bank of America saw 80% of its mortgage originations occur online, while 85% of deposits were made via ATM or mobile deposit. While branches remain “incredibly important” to the personal relationship-building Bank of America and other businesses seek to foster, the convenience and enhanced capabilities virtual offerings have created will never disappear, he said.

Also changed for the better is emphasis on racial equity and justice. The racial reckoning prompted by the killing of George Floyd last year has led many companies to reevaluate their internal policies and external services to address long-standing racial barriers and discrimination. Bank of America has spent about half of the previously announced $1 billion investment for racial equity and opportunity, which includes investments in minority business-supported funds, equity in minority depository institutions and community-development financial institutions and job training programs in partnership with colleges, universities and major employers.

Internally, Moynihan highlighted the company’s commitment to its employees, including through cash bonuses, child care funding and free COVID-19 testing, as examples of ways other businesses can continue to support their critical workforce through challenging times.

Reflecting on his successful career path, the Brown University alumnus and former Providence attorney left business owners and workers hoping to advance their personal and professional lives with a simple piece of advice, and a homework assignment.

“Maintaining curiosity is key,” said Moynihan, offering up a book,  “A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life” by Academy Award–winning producer Brian Grazer and business journalist Charles Fishman, as recommended reading for the audience.

The event also recognized local business and community advocates with three awards. John J. Partridge, senior partner at Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP, was recognized with the Ben G. Mondor Award for Philanthropy. R.I. Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott received the Barbara C. Burlingame Distinguished Service Award. Landmark Medical Center was awarded the newly created Community Heroes Award.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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