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Bank of America CEO Discusses Corporate Responsibility with Global Social Enterprise Student Leaders

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By: Kimberly Lam (MBA’14)

About 20 Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) student leaders had the special opportunity to sit down with Bank of America (BOA) CEO Brian Moynihan on November 12, to discuss the company’s corporate social responsibility efforts.

The mood was relaxed as Moynihan took questions from students and reiterated that Bank of America is always trying to do the right thing for its customers and employees. Commenting on some of the challenges the company confronts when pursuing corporate social responsibility efforts Moynihan said, “It’s hard, because we have to make a profit and we need to do the best for our shareholders.”

Moynihan also noted that while the company does not get a lot of demand from shareholders regarding CSR efforts, he reiterated that the company engages in these programs to do the right thing and to have a large impact. He stated the way to do CSR is not through the shareholder’s eyes, but through management since efforts should be driven by customers, not shareholders.

Second year student leader Sarah Rosenzweig asked Moynihan how BOA measures the value of their CSR efforts. Moynihan replied that while they currently do not have a standard way of measuring the value of CSR initiatives they measure by the impact of Bank of America’s brand, the returns on activities and the retention of customers. He went on to discuss Bank of America’s partnership with non-profit organization Redwood Forrest Foundation to restore and protect 50,000 acres of timberland in Northern California. Through this project Bank of America engineered a unique 20-year $65 million loan with no interest, principal or payment collected for the first 10 years.

Moynihan continued noting “you need both private and public working together.” He stated when working with NGOs, BOA makes sure that all members in the project are onboard and receive the same training in order to promote a cohesive working environment.

At the roundtable, Moynihan and the student leaders were also joined by McDonough School of Business Dean David Thomas, GSEI founder Professor William Novelli and GSEI Executive Director Ladan Manteghi. Professor Novelli asked Moynihan what role the CEO plays in big picture issues such as debt, deficit and healthcare reform. Moynihan replied that it’s the responsibility as CEO to raise awareness, have an opinion, realize the severity of the situation and act on it.

Moynihan left the roundtable offering several pieces of advice. He told students to 1) work hard and never turn down an assignment, 2) find things that allow you to have an impact and 3) be around people you like. In his closing words, he asked students to plan ahead, listen to constituents and invest money to do the research to be competitive, stating the high value add this would bring to the future.

GSEI student leaders were honored to be in the room. JD/MBA candidate Genevieve Ryan stated “Even if you are not interested in a particular sector, there is so much to learn about how giants in these industries view the world. To hear from them about how they have gotten to where they are now is invaluable.”