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Bank of America CEO Discusses Investment, Impact, and Strengthening the Middle Class

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By Michael McLaughlin (MBA’15)

Before the conversation with Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan on September 19 in Georgetown’s Gaston Hall, about 20 Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) Student Leaders had the opportunity to sit down with Moynihan for a roundtable conversation.

Topics ranged from Bank of America’s commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) to a more general discussion of the intersection between business and politics.  Moynihan discussed his belief that social change isn’t about stopping particular activities immediately, like burning coal to produce power, but changing behavior over time. This, of course, requires the long-term commitment of companies like his, as well as the patience and dedication of advocates and volunteers. He lauded his employees and customers for driving Bank of America’s commitment to CSR.

When asked by Robert Wright (MBA’14) about eventually including a social impact investment fund as part of a 401k mix, Moynihan minced no words.  He told the students that he believes that direct investment in social impact is a better way to raise money and noted that stocks exist for people interested in impact investing.  His concern was about the profitability of such a fund, something Georgetown MBAs are currently tackling by exploring development of a tool for pre-investment analysis of social investments. Moynihan’s response made it clear just how important their work to establish a metric for measuring social impact is to the future of impact investing.

After a question from GSEI founder and professor, Bill Novelli, the conversation shifted to one about the almost constant presence of CEOs on Capitol Hill. Moynihan explained that his work with Members of Congress was centered on the promulgation of rules and regulation. He believes that the revitalization of the middle class has to be the top priority of Congress to improve not only the US economy, but the global one.

He impressed upon the GSEI Student Leaders that the real economic crisis was the one that occurred two years before the 2008 collapse of the Lehman Brothers when housing prices fell in 2006. A student question about whether Bank of America could have a greater domestic social impact regarding foreclosures led to a discussion of the structural changes needed to repair the US economy. Moynihan suggested that loosening credit won’t do the trick and that the tension between the expectations of homeowners and the demands of investors has to be resolved at the national level.

In closing, Moynihan told students that Bank of America’s commitment corporate responsibility goes beyond philanthropy and is incorporated into the ethos of the company. He sees social enterprise as an all-encompassing pledge to make the world a better place.

Related Link(s):

Buffett Rocks Georgetown

Warren Buffett on CNBC: Stocks now ‘more or less fairly priced’ – CNBC

Interview with Warren Buffett C-SPAN

America’s Billionaire – NY Times

Buffett’s Top ‘Picks’: Wedding Licenses, Investor’s ‘Bible’ – USA Today

Warren Buffett: ‘America Works,’ but Income Gap Fears are Real – Washington Business Journal

Warren Buffett Speaks about Philanthropy, State of Economy – Georgetown Voice

Warren Buffett Talks Philanthropy With Bank of America CEO – Georgetown University