‘They keep pushing it out’: Why Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan is not so stressed about recession

November 3, 2022, 9:54 AM UTC
Bank of America CEO Brian Thomas Moynihan
Bank of America CEO Brian Thomas Moynihan testifies during a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill September 22, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer—Getty Images

Good morning.

The Fortune CEO Initiative kicked off in Palm Beach, Florida, yesterday, with a town hall meeting headlined by Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan. Moynihan began with his analysis of the economy, which was considerably less dire than other prognosticators:

“Our research team predicts that there will be a recession starting in the first, second, third quarter of next year…They keep pushing it out. And that’s because if you look at the customer data through Oct. 24, customers have spent 8.5% more than they spent last year for those three weeks. The customers have money. Their accounts are up 15% year over year. Unemployment is low. And there is still great competition for talent… That’s the conundrum. We are in pretty good shape. Recession predicted. Those things will collide.”

Moynihan has spent an enormous amount of his own time in the last few years working with the World Economic Forum and the Sustainable Markets Initiative to devise metrics for measuring ESG performance and to encourage financing for climate related investments. I asked him why his shareholders should support that activity:

“We believe in what Jim Collins called the genius of the and, not the tyranny of the or. At the end of the day, we are delivering record profits and record purpose in our company.”

I asked whether any of his customers were backing off their environmental or social commitments, either because of an impending recession or because of political pushback against ESG.

“We don’t see it at all. As CEOs of public companies, you make these commitments, you are out there…I don’t see them backing off, because they made a commitment on the fundamental basis of what they believe about the future of the capital system.”

Moynihan said Bank of America’s research also showed:

“There is an extreme correlation that you can avoid companies that would go bankrupt if you don’t invest in companies that score poorly” on ESG.

Other excerpts from the town hall discussion:

“New employees want to talk to us about our annual report about partnering for positive impact before they talk to us about anything else.”
—Penny Pennington, managing partner, Edward Jones

“Companies should be measured on more than just profits as a measure of success. Clearly our customers share that mindset. And when you think about talent, there is research out there that says workers will not work for employees that do not share their values. And that goes for as much as 56% of them. Employees today want to be attached to a purpose.”
—Chano Fernandez, co-CEO, Workday

“Profit and purpose, purpose and profit, these are not new ideas…The principles of those companies that have survived over time have been rooted in authenticity and what is relevant to your stakeholders, and being judicious about what you do, and not try to be all things to all people.”
Tamara Lundgren, CEO, Schnitzer Steel

More from day two of the initiative here tomorrow. Other news below.

Alan Murray



Fed rates

The Fed yesterday hiked interest rates by 75 basis points for the fourth time in a row, while hinting that its attempts to bring inflation under control could become less aggressive pretty soon. Chair Jay Powell: “Data since our last meeting suggests that the ultimate level of interest rates will be higher than expected.” The Bank of England will probably unveil its own 75-point bump today. Fortune

Twitter scythe

Elon Musk will reportedly tell Twitter staffers tomorrow that half of them are heading for the exit and will push for the survivors to return to the office. Meanwhile, senior executives continue to leave, and the Chief Twit’s new $8 monthly fee for retaining a blue check mark could go live as soon as Monday. Hard to tell where all this turbulence will take Twitter, but wherever it’s going, it seems to be moving at speed. Fortune

Germany and China

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is taking a lot of heat for visiting China with a bunch of German business leaders rather than presenting a united front with his EU counterparts (particularly France’s Emmanuel Macron), defends himself in a Politico op-ed: “Even in changed circumstances, China remains an important business and trading partner for Germany and Europe—we don’t want to decouple from it…Diversification and strengthening of our own resilience, instead of protectionism and withdrawal into our own market—that is our stance, in Germany and in the European Union.” Politico


As Amazon’s value drops below $1 trillion, this chart shows how dramatically the biggest tech heavyweights have fallen, by Shawn Tully

CVS, Walgreens and Walmart agree to pay $12 billion to settle opioid epidemic lawsuits, by Bloomberg

U.S. inflation will moderate next year, but a recession is ‘inevitable,’ says Man Group hedge fund CEO, by Christiaan Hetzner

Revolut CEO may be eyeing a move further into social media as the fintech launches a chat feature for payments: ‘You never know’, by Anne Sraders

More than 90% of S&P 500 boards disclose racial representation. But the numbers have barely budged, by Lila MacLellan

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer. 

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