Bank of America’s woes hit home

Amy Scott Sep 12, 2011

Bank of America’s woes hit home

Amy Scott Sep 12, 2011

Kai Ryssdal: There’s no word as of yet exactly how many of those 30,000 jobs will be lost in BofA’s hometown of Charlotte, N.C. Even after the financial crisis, Charlotte still called itself the second largest financial center in the country, after New York.

We sent Amy Scott down to Charlotte this morning to see how its taking the BofA news.

Amy Scott: As Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan spoke in New York today, the anxiety in Uptown Charlotte was palpable.

Vic Werany: Everything that happens in the bank in front of me impacts my business immediately.

Just outside Bank of America’s offices, Vic Werany, also known as the “Chili Man,” sells hotdogs. He says his business is down 40 to 50 percent in the last few years.

Werany: Anytime there’s layoffs you’ve got fear, you’ve got people walking out the door. And anytime there’s fear there’s less chance people are going to come out and buy a hotdog or lunch anywhere. They’re saving money, making turkey sandwiches. Or peanut butter and jelly.

And Werany isn’t the only one at his house who’s worried. His wife works at Bank of America, doing something to do with “risk” — he’s not sure exactly.

Werany: Everybody’s on edge, everybody’s wondering if they’re gonna be part of the what, 30,000? That’s harsh, man.

People have been on edge in Charlotte for years. Finance is one of the city’s biggest industries. Hundreds of bank employees have been laid off since the financial crisis.

I first met hairdresser Yvonne Curtis almost three years ago — when the other local bank, Wachovia, was on the brink. It was later bought by Wells Fargo. Back then Curtis was worried about her clients at Wachovia. She has several at BofA as well.

Yvonne Curtis: It’s sort of fashionable to vilify bankers, but these are some of the finest people I’ve ever worked with, so I don’t want them to lose their jobs.

But Curtis says things worked out better for Wachovia’s employees than many people expected. Wells Fargo reassigned a lot of people. One of the survivors is Titus Sandy, who works in derivatives at Wells Fargo.

Titus Sandy: You find that people move from one bank to another. So when people have been laid off, it’s a friend or a family member. So I think they’re in it together at the end of the day.

He and his colleagues are watching Bank of America closely. They’re keeping their eyes on Wells Fargo, too. It’s also reportedly planning more layoffs.

In Charlotte, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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