Monday, October 17, 2011

Good Day/Bad Day: The Banks

Each weekday, we'll tell you who we think had a good day or a bad day in Charlotte or elsewhere. Let us know if you disagree - and who you think had the better (or worse) day:

The Wells Fargo red and gold - are you used to those colors yet? - shone especially bright Monday, with the bank posting a record-setting $4.1 billion of earnings in the third quarter. That's more than 20 percent higher than the same quarter last year, thanks to a decrease in loan losses.

Analysts expect encouraging news, too, from Bank of America, which should report Tuesday morning that it has returned to profitability after losses in three of the past four quarters.

That's good news for Charlotte, which benefits from healthy banks that have big footprints here. Plus, as we've said before, we agree with BofA CEO Brian Moynihan when he says his bank doesn't need to feel bad about making a profit.

Those remarks, however, followed consumer outrage over BofA's new $5 debit card fee. That, coupled with strong quarterly reports, presents a PR challenge for BofA and Wells Fargo, which is testing a similar fee in Georgia. Struggling consumers are livid about the fee, and the Occupy protests, up to this point a rather undefined and ragged movement, are beginning to get the financing and focus necessary to tap into a frustrated populace.

"This downturn has been too long. Unemployment is too high. And people are hurting. We get that," Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf said on Monday in response to a question on the demonstrations. His bank, along with BofA, has a tricky road ahead to navigate with consumers. We'll call it a Good Day for the banks, with reservations.

Peter St. Onge