Bank of America : Fluffing speeches

Mismanagement undermines the value of a resource.

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The feature

Bank of America, a major US-based financial services group, makes available speeches by senior executives but the presentation rings a hollow note. Bank of America provides an archive of speeches by senor executives in the Newsroom section of the corporate area (About Us) of its dotcom website. The archive master list has 52 entries covering four years, 2009-2012, and 16 individual executives. Its landing page presents the content in a formatted list (date, title, executive) in reverse chronological order (most recent first). The list can be filtered from a Speeches Categories dropdown. The dropdown offers 11 categories, from BAC/Financial Services Industry to Wealth and Investment Management. Four of the categories have no matches (for example, Ethics/Governance/Risk), while five have no speeches from the past 12 months. In total, however, the dropdown covers only 37 of the 52 archived speeches, although for 2009 it includes 21 speeches against the 16 in the master list. The discrepancy for 2010 is nine in the dropdown against 25 in the master list. Annual distribution drops away in the most recent years: five/nine (dropdown/master) in 2011 and two in 2012. Several of the executives included are no longer office holders, notably Kenneth D Lewis (seven speeches in the master list), who was replaced as chief executive and president by Brian T Moynihan (18 speeches) in January 2010.

The takeaway

Bank of America’s executive speeches archive is on initial encounter an impressive resource for journalists and others such as analysts and jobseekers researching the company. It covers a wide range of topics, a reasonable time span and features a broad cross-section of executives beyond the president/CEO. Unfortunately, the more familiar users become with it the more mis-sold it appears to be and the less fit for purpose. The unreconcilable mathematics – the differences between the master list and dropdown coverage – are embarrassing enough for a bank but the more significant issue for users is the likelihood this creates for content to be overlooked or not found: if it is being made available it needs to be done so in a coherent manner. More damaging reputationally are the apparent creeping neglect of the archive and the lack of content in some speech categories: has the bank less to say now on its range of featured topics than it did four years ago, or nothing at all that addresses, for example, small businesses or ethics/governance? Both content and its management are in urgent need of a thorough audit.
First published 08 January, 2013
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