Retail Rehab At Bank Of America

A lot is riding on who the new consumer-banking chief will be

It's an awesome job--commanding an empire of more than 2,000 branches in 10 Western states, 6,900 automated teller machines, hundreds of supermarket banking facilities, plus subsidiaries in Asia--and BankAmerica Corp., which runs the nation's biggest retail banking facilities, must fill it fast. Early in October, the nation's third-largest bank announced the impending retirement of consumer banking chief Thomas E. Peterson and the abrupt resignation of Luke S. Helms, his top deputy. The San Francisco-based bank didn't name a successor. Instead, it said it had launched a search for an executive who would combine the responsibilities of the two, becoming BofA's retail czar and second most powerful figure. But amid uncertainty at the top, present and former staff members warn that the bank's retail operations, currently 44.8% of net income, have been drifting. Complains one BofA retail middle manager: "We're not sure where the bank is going."

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