Hugh L. McColl, Jr. | Legacy of Leadership Interview


Hugh L. McColl, Jr.

(Born June 18, 1935)

In 1886, Hugh McColl's great-grandfather organized the Bank of Marlboro, the county's first bank. His grandfather was president of the bank, and McColl's father, who became president in 1931 at 25 years of age, liquidated the bank during the Depression and paid off all depositors. But Hugh McColl, who heads Bank of America, the nation's largest bank, became a banker more by default than by design.    

He returned to Bennettsville in 1959 after two years as a troop leader in the United States Marine Corps. Having received a business administration degree in 1957 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he was eager to begin a career, possibly in the family's Marlboro County cotton brokerage and ginning businesses.

His father had a better idea. He steered his son to the American Commercial Bank in Charlotte, where the McColl family had done business for years. The former Marine lieutenant was hired as a trainee. In 1960, the bank was merged with Greensboro's Security National Bank and became North Carolina National Bank, and McColl's ascent to national and international banking began.    

He became an officer of NCNB in 1961 and just 13 years later, in 1974, was promoted to president of the bank. In April 1981, he was named vice chairman and chief operating officer of NCNB Corporation and in March 1982 he became president. McColl was named chairman of the board and chief executive officer in September 1983.

During the 1980s, NCNB grew from a one-state bank with 172 offices in North Carolina to a seven-state franchise with 826 full-service offices and more than 28,000 employees. It operated statewide banks in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas, and owned banks in Atlanta, Baltimore, and northern Virginia.    

NCNB continued to grow, reaching a milestone in July 1991 when McColl and C&S/Sovran Chairman Bennett Brown signed an agreement creating NationsBank, at the time the nation's third-largest bank, with assets of $119 billion. NationsBank had 59,000 employees, and 2,000 branches.

Then, in April 1998, NationsBank and San Francisco-based BankAmerica announced a merger that resulted in the creation of Bank of America, with headquarters in Charlotte. Bank of America has more than $614 billion in assets, 5,000 banking centers in 22 states and the District of Columbia, employs 180,000 associates, has relationships with 30 million households, and serves two million businesses in the United States and 38 other countries. McColl is chairman and chief executive officer.    

Hugh Leon McColl, Jr., was born June 18, 1935, in Bennettsville, the son of Hugh L. and Frances Pratt Carroll McColl. While his father turned from banking to agricultural pursuits during the Depression, banking, as it turned out, was a family tradition. McColl's brothers are bankers, he married a banker's daughter, and their two sons and daughter all worked for banks, but now pursue other interests.

McColl is known in the banking industry as a hard competitor and entrepreneur. He is straightforward and outspoken. "I was born with competitive blood," he has acknowledged. His credo: "Do what you say you're going to do. Get the job done. Get it done right."

In guiding the company to nearly fiftyfold growth during his tenure, McColl has developed a model for financial services. The company is a technology leader and was one of the first banks to offer services through personal computers and the telephone.    

While he has always been considered a demanding boss, McColl and Bank of America are dedicated to helping employees, or associates, lead balanced, healthy lives. Through its Volunteer Time for Schools initiative, Bank of America grants associates up to two hours of paid time each week to volunteer in local schools. Working Mother magazine honored McColl for his company's progressive work-and-family programs.    

Acting on the conviction that his company's health depends on the health of its communities, McColl has led Bank of America to reinvest its resources across the franchise. Bank of America has committed to investing $350 billion in economically underserved communities. The company also is recognized as the nation's leader in expanding relationships with minority- and women-owned companies.    

McColl is one of Charlotte's patron saints and visionaries. On his travels abroad, he studied the major cities he visited and formed firm ideas about the qualities that made them exceptional, and he has tried to apply them to Charlotte. He was the first chairman of the Charlotte Uptown Development Corporation, which mobilized financial and business interests to finance the dramatic redevelopment of the central city.    

He serves on the boards of Ruddick Corporation, Sonoco Products Company, Canal Industries, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, and Queens College. The McColl School of Business at Queens College is named for the Bennettsville native. The McColl Building, which houses the Kenan–Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, also recognizes McColl's longtime support of that school.    

He is married to the former Jane Spratt of York. The McColls have three grown children and seven grandchildren.    

McColl entered the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame in 1990.    

© 1999 South Carolina Business Hall of Fame