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BofA Names Southland Chief to Head State Team


As part of a nationwide restructuring, Bank of America on Thursday said it would merge its top-level management teams in Southern California and Northern California under the leadership of Liam E. McGee, who has led the bank's operations in the Southland.

McGee's appointment to the newly created post of California president of BofA puts the Pasadena resident at the helm of the bank's largest, most profitable market, which comprises 6.3 million households and more than one-quarter of the bank's total deposits. He also will oversee 40,000 employees.

It signals the start of layoffs of up to 10,000 BofA employees nationwide--mostly senior- and mid-level managers--which the bank announced last week. By cutting about 7% of its work force, the bank hopes to shave up to $600 million in expenses and then reinvest some of the savings into high-growth businesses.

Merging the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank's two California management teams will eliminate about 10 high-paying posts statewide, officials said. Additional cuts are expected to be announced over the next five months.

One of the first and most visible departures under the reorganization is former California Treasurer Kathleen Brown, who joined BofA in 1995 after an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid.

The bank said Thursday that Brown has resigned her post as Western president of its private banking arm to pursue other interests. "I'm taking some well-deserved time off, and then I'll review my options," Brown said.

Replacing Brown at the private banking unit is Connie Beck, who was McGee's counterpart as president of Northern California operations. The private banking unit, with $130 billion in assets nationwide, provides financial services to the wealthy.

Though Southern California is no longer the headquarters for a major bank, it can boast two top-level bank officers. Les Biller, chief operating officer at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo Bank, relocated to Los Angeles last year.

Analysts say the placement by both banks of high-level executives in their Los Angeles offices demonstrates Southern California's strong growth prospects.

"There are more people, greater wealth and more population growth in the south," said Ed Carpenter, an Irvine-based bank consultant. "The retail banking environment is stronger in Southern California than in Northern California."

McGee, 45, joined Bank of America in 1990. After the 1998 acquisition by NationsBank, he was named president of Southern California. More recently, McGee led the nationwide effort to reexamine many of the bank's processing systems to streamline operations in anticipation of the upcoming layoffs.

"Because of California's sheer size and vital role, having one leader makes more sense," McGee said. He plans to announce his management team next week.

McGee said he plans to focus on increasing the bank's market share in California, particularly among affluent and small-business customers.

BofA shares rose $1.88 to close at $49.06 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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