The History of Bank of America

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If you are looking to establish a banking relationship defined by convenience, one-stop shopping, online accessibility, and a broad range of products and services, you should consider large national banks. Among them, one of the largest is Bank of America, commonly referred to as BofA.

As of October 2019, Bank of America serves roughly 66 million customers, including both consumers and small businesses. The bank operates some 4,300 retail financial centers, 16,600 ATMs, and online banking software with approximately 38 million active users, 29 million of whom access the software through BofA's mobile app. The company specializes in small business support and boasts 3 million small business owners as customers. In addition to the U.S. and its territories, BofA also operates in 35 countries abroad.

The History of Bank of America

Bank of America began in 1904 when Italian-American Amadeo Giannini founded the "Bank of Italy" in San Francisco. Set in a former saloon, Giannini initially began the bank as a way to provide loans to immigrants, middle-class Americans, and farmers denied services by major financial institutions of the time period. As deposits grew and word of mouth carried, the name was changed to "Bank of America," which Giannini felt better expressed the mission of his bank.

Expansion, acquisitions, and branch openings quickly followed. Giannini's tiny bank grew into a powerhouse that backed everything from Disney movies like "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" to the early start-up of Hewlett-Packard.

Consumer Criticism

The 21st century saw Bank of America rise and fall in public opinion through the rapid acquisition of Merrill Lynch, NationsBank, and other financial institutions. Seemingly swallowing the competition whole, the rapid growth rate took its toll. While Bank of America struggled with public perception, public opinion of the banking sector as a whole dropped steadily as the recession deepened in 2009.

Despite the setbacks, Bank of America has held its own in the financial industry. Today, Bank of America appears to have turned its attention from its network of retail locations to building and refining first-class online and mobile products. A huge variety of financial services and online tools bolster the operations at physical locations from Main Street to Dubai—providing Bank of America with a loyal customer base. 

With the perks of a big bank, though, come drawbacks. Tales of never-ending bureaucracy, slow turnaround times for mortgages, impersonal customer service, and extra fees have dogged Bank of America for years. The image of Bank of America as a giant, unconcerned with customer service, has caused a small but vocal minority to jump ship for local banks.

New Marketing Efforts

New products, new services, and blankets of marketing targeted towards customers are constantly being rolled out. One example is the marketing campaign behind the "keep the change" program—customers enroll to have the "change" from each debit card transaction deposited into their savings account, like a virtual piggy bank. 

Another key strategy in the 21st century has been an emphasis on easy access to services. Bank of America has invested in online services, including improvements to its website and mobile tools. Personal account management, mortgages, and tools to track spending are all available from desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Bank of America also makes it easy to wire money to accounts in the US and abroad through online tools. After entering the routing information and passing through a few security checks, sending money is as simple as a few clicks or taps.

Like many major national banks, one of Bank of America persistent draws is its ability to be a one-stop shop for clients. From checking and savings accounts to investment portfolios, to mortgages and small business loans, a customer can access nearly any financial service they'd like from Bank of America. However many accounts or services a customer has with BofA, they can all be accessed through a single app, with a single Bank of America login ID.

Best Savings Account Interest Rates

The Balance offers a comprehensive comparison of the best savings account interest rates. In partnership with Bankrate, a survey of approximately 4,800 banks and credit unions nationwide has been whittled down to the best options available today. All of the banks and credit unions listed are insured by the FDIC or NCUA.

Article Sources

  1. Bank of America. "Company Overview." Accessed Dec. 5, 2019.

  2. History San José. "Bank of Italy." Accessed Dec. 5, 2019.