North Carolina’s Bank of America — The Name Says It All

BofA has one of the country's largest financial footprints


When it comes to America and banks, it doesn’t take rocket science to find one of the biggest names.

Enter Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), the origins of which go back to 1904 with the visionary Amadeo Giannini. When a major earthquake struck San Francisco, he was quick to make loans (many of which were paid back quickly as San Fran was rebuilt). It was the start of a legendary reputation.

But to expand, Giannini believed that the best approach was to engage in acquisitions. He was bold, and his growth strategy worked well until the 1980s, when Bank of America faced massive defaults on Third World loans. Yet with some painful restructurings, the firm got back on track.

Of course, BofA continued with its aggressive deal-making, though it eventually was acquired by Charlotte, N.C.-based NationsBank — but then took the name Bank of America. The company continues to be headquartered in Charlotte’s Bank of America Corporate Center, which was finished in 1992 and is one of the defining points of the city’s skyline.

Unfortunately, adversity would strike again in 2008 — as it would for most U.S. financial institutions. Bank of America purchased the largest mortgage lender, Countrywide, as well as Merrill Lynch. But the deals proved to be onerous and Bank of America suffered tremendous losses. Then in 2009, the firm accepted a $20 billion TARP loan.

Since then, Bank of America has continued to face challenges. But it has engaged in a tough restructuring to get back on track. It also helps that the bank has a massive footprint, with about $2.1 trillion in assets. And the company still is a massive American employer, with around 280,000 workers on its payroll.

Now, even Berkshire Hathaway’s (NYSE:BRK.A, BRK.B) Warren Buffett thinks the company’s prospects are promising. Last year, he plunked down $5 billion for shares in Bank of America.

Check out the complete list of Real America Index components, along with an interactive map of short-term and long-term returns.

Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPOPlaybook, a site dedicated to the hottest news and rumors about initial public offerings. He also is the author of “All About Short Selling” and “All About Commodities.” Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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