Things are looking better at Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) with each passing quarter. The bank is now on the verge of reaching another notable milestone -- in addition, that is, to the milestones it has passed over the past few years.
Another milestone for B of A
The latest milestone concerns Bank of America's size. At the end of the third quarter, the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank reported that it had $2.28 trillion worth of assets on its balance sheet. That's enough to rank it second behind JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), which has $2.56 trillion in assets.
What's notable is that Bank of America could soon eclipse its all-time high in terms of the size of its balance sheet. The bank's size peaked in the second quarter of 2010 at $2.36 trillion in assets in the wake of its Merrill Lynch acquisition. But it went on to spend years shrinking and consolidating around its core business lines. By the fourth quarter of 2013, it had shed $261 billion in assets.
Over the past four years, however, as Bank of America turned the corner from the financial crisis, it has begun once again to grow. As of right now, Bank of America is only $80 billion below its all-time high. Granted, for most other banks, that's a lot of assets. But for Bank of America, it equates to an increase of only 3.5%, which could be achieved within the next couple years.
Other important milestones
Bank of America's latest milestone comes on the top of others that it has recently notched. Its latest expense target serves as a case in point. Last year, the bank said it would cut its annual operating expenses to $53 billion by 2018.
At the time Bank of America announced this goal, it needed to cut an added $3 billion in expenses to achieve the target. The bank was also working against the natural increase in costs that happen from one year to the next, thanks to the bank's growth as well as ordinary inflation. To put all of this into perspective, in 2011, Bank of America's total expenses added up to $76 billion.
By the third quarter of this year, however, Bank of America was already on track to meet its goal. If you annualize its operating expenses last quarter, they come out at $52.6 billion.
Relatedly, another milestone that Bank of America recently passed was to get its efficiency ratio below 60%, which happened to be one of the bank's principal performance metrics. This is the percent of revenue that a bank spends on operating expenses.
Bank of America's efficiency ratio in the wake of the crisis regularly came in above 70%, as the bank absorbed upwards of $200 billion in crisis-related costs. Starting in the second quarter of this year, however, it dipped below 60%, where it remained in the third quarter.
In short, as the financial crisis recedes further into the distance, it seems safe to think that Bank of America will continue to surpass milestones like this at an accelerating pace.