Bank of America Corp.'s executive shuffle this week supports what the beleaguered Charlotte conglomerate has been telling investors for weeks: It will keep selling unwanted bits of the company and hold on to major business units.
By ousting two top executives and streamlining the company's chain of command under two new mini-chieftains, Chief Executive Brian Moynihan is effectively ceding day-to-day oversight of Bank of America's nearly 290,000 workers across six sprawling businesses, experts say.
It will be up to his top deputies, co-chief operating officers Thomas Montag and David Darnell, to run point on trimming down the $2.3 trillion-asset company.
They will have full authority to identify things analysts say Bank of America can do without, experts say, such as rights to service loans made by other institutions, equity stakes in other businesses or loans carried at less than face value it can sell at a gain.
But their appointment does not indicate any shift of its overall divestiture strategy, experts say.
"The promotion of both Darnell and Montag greatly diminishes any speculation that Moynihan has given any serious consideration to a Merrill [Lynch] spin-off or meaningful breakup of the company," Sterne Agee & Leach analyst Todd Hagerman wrote in a research note.
Bank of America needs to cut costs and raise capital as the tepid economy pressures margins, and regulators demand that it set aside more capital to absorb future losses. The research firm CreditSights Inc. estimates it may have to generate $6.8 billion to $48 billion in capital over the next year and a half, depending on how much capital regulators ultimately decide big banks need to have on hand.
It has already let go of 2,500 workers this year and agreed to sell a number of assets, including its Canadian credit cards and part of its interest in a Chinese bank.
The bank is expected to raise $8.3 billion by selling half of its stake in China Construction Bank to a group of investors. It is selling its Canadian cards portfolio to TD Bank Group for an undisclosed amount; TD has described the price tag as a "modest premium."
CreditSights said last month that as of the second quarter it had some $7.7 billion of mortgage servicing rights, minority equity states and deferred tax assets it could potentially liquidate.
Moynihan has ruled out selling Merrill and other main businesses, something analysts say was bolstered by the management shake-up on Tuesday.
Darnell is in charge of the retail and single customer business, like deposits, mortgages and wealth management. Montag heads up the corporate operations, including global banking and markets, the company's biggest money-maker.
Darnell formerly ran global commercial banking, and Montag previously headed global banking and markets. Their ascension actually shows that Bank of America aims to bring Merrill Lynch even more into the fold by ramping up sales of bank products to brokerage clients.
Gone are Sallie Krawcheck, the high-profile head of wealth management, and Joe Price, who was in charge of the retail bank.
Assigning operating duties to Darnell and Montag should free Moynihan to deal with pressing big-picture policy and strategic matters like resolving a series of mortgage-litigation headaches, including a suit from the Federal Housing Finance Agency last week seeking refunds for faulty loans sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Bank of America is one of 17 banks the FHFA is suing.
"The success of Bank of America is driven by their ability to really address these overhang issues as productively as possible," said Marty Mosby, an analyst with Guggenheim Securities. "While [Moynihan's] doing that, the company has to be managed. We need folks [like Darnell and Montag] that have the authority to manage the company. … We can't have business line unit managers running around doing things."