Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said the financial giant takes social responsibilities seriously, but it’s not enough for the bank to do good. It must also enact policies that get others to do good, too.
During a session on the first day of The Boston Globe’s inaugural Globe Summit ― a virtual festival bringing together leading thinkers across the nation to talk business, technology, and health ― Moynihan noted that among other things, Bank of America already has committed to raising the minimum wage of its US employees to $25 an hour by 2025. The bank, with 200,000 employees globally, currently pays a minimum hourly wage of $20 in the US.
But just as important was requiring in May that the bank’s US vendors pay their employees at least $15 an hour. Moynihan said it was a decision that some vendors initially balked at, saying it wasn’t necessary to pay call center operators or cafeteria workers those wages.
“Our basic principle is if we can do it, you can do it, and we’re willing to pay you to do it,” Moynihan told Globe columnist Shirley Leung, who conducted the interview that aired Wednesday.
The discussion also touched on how the bank could better support entrepreneurs of color who struggle to win corporate contracts.
Moynihan explained the bank makes it a priority to do business with companies owned by people of color and women.
“That may cost you incrementally a little bit more,” he said. “It could or could not, but the answer is, it’s the right thing to do.”
Another way the bank is helping entrepreneurs of color thrive is through its $1.25 billion racial equity initiative, which launched in June 2020 days after the killing of George Floyd.
Of that, about $350 million is being invested in minority-owned venture capital firms that back under-represented entrepreneurs. The novel approach is galvanizing others to join the effort.
“It’s been interesting to see how many of our corporate clients and others say we would like to help you do this,” said Moynihan. “We are catalyzing more money towards these firms.”
Meanwhile, as the pandemic continues to affect corporate decision-making, Bank of America, like many other companies, is wrestling with finding a balance between allowing employees the flexibility to continue working from home while also encouraging in-person interaction.
“The question is: How do you have your cake and eat it, too, and how do employees have their cake and eat it, too?” Moynihan said.
Another thorny topic for big company CEOs is whether to weigh in on polarizing political issues from abortion rights to voter rights. At Bank of America, Moynihan said he tends to look at these issues through the lens of his employees.
The bank, for example, publicly opposed the manufacturing of high-impact rifles for retail sale because many employees were personally impacted by the mass shootings in Charleston, S.C., Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas. The bank, which is headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., also fought the state’s so-called bathroom bill, seen as a setback to transgender rights. Moynihan recalled how some employees no longer felt safe attending a meeting in the bank’s home state.
“You have to have a thought process. You can’t respond to what’s going on in the moment,” said Moynihan. “It has to be carefully handled.”
Angela Yang can be reached at email@example.com.