A sign that at least one banking executive gets it


It's no secret that there's a lot of customer wrath aimed at banks these days, but it's still easy to wonder if the executives running the joints understand just how angry people are.

Well, I think Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis demonstrated that he does.

He spoke on July 30 in Chicago at the National Urban League Annual Conference Business lunch, and while he (rightly) deflected some of the blame for the economic mess to those in the so-called shadow banking industry (think: mortgage lenders and investors), and he said he thinks some of the fury in the media has been "overdone," he did make a clever statement that shows that he understands that bank CEOs aren't exactly the most admired of professions these days.

A little quick background, though, especially for readers who weren't up on the news during the 1980s. It helps to know that former president Ronald Reagan once said: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."

Lewis made reference to the famed quote in his speech (the entire text of what he said is online), and again, while banking executives arguably deserve a lot of wrath these days, I wanted to give him (or maybe his speechwriter?) credit for this gem in his remarks:

"I want to spend the balance of my time here talking a little bit about what I think the banks should be doing to help turn things around in our urban communities. But before I do that, I think I probably should answer one question that, I suspect, is on a lot of minds: 'With friends like the banks, who needs enemies?' Maybe some Americans are now imagining a variation on Ronald Reagan's scariest words in the English language: "I'm from the bank, and I'm here to help you."