It's certainly true that banks are rationalizing the sheer number of branches they support, especially in regions where the costs outweigh the returns. But banks are also investing in the branch experience, which has led to lots of design and technology enhancements.
When Bank of America ( NYSE: BAC ) released earnings for the first quarter of 2013 last month, it counted as a downside surprise, as the bank reported a fully diluted $0.20 per share vs. expectations of about $0.23 per share.
I noted not too long ago that Goldman Sachs was pioneering an approach to social engineering via so-called social impact bonds.
When it comes to litigation liability, Bank of America seems to lose ground, even as it gains ground.
Bank of America has scored a big legal victory in its battle to secure approval of a controversial $8.5 billion settlement with select bond holders over allegedly tainted MBSs. The settlement, which was announced two years ago, was considered a coup for the bank, but bond holders not party to the original settlement voiced huge reservations and attorneys general in New York and Delaware opened investigations.
Bank of America's shareholders will gather for their annual meeting this week, amid a much less emotionally charged climate than companies like JPMorgan Chase.
When the Justice Department decided to prosecute Bank of America for defrauding the big housing GSEs, it relied on the Financial Institutional Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA), which allows the government to file civil charges for fraud "affecting a federally insured financial institution."
Banks have tried mightily to repair their customer service reputations, which was no small task in the wake of the financial crisis, when all banks were tarred as anti-consumer.
Expenses no longer represent Bank of America's ( NYSE:BAC ) biggest challenge. With Project New BAC, the bank has proven that it can wring costs out aggressively. The trend on that front has been satisfactory.
Bank of America may not be the most cutting-edge institution when it comes to mobile banking--it often lags behind their smaller, nimbler competitors by years--but when they do offer a new widget, it's sure to be used.