People hate Bank of America (NYSE:BAC). And they do so with a vehemence typically reserved only for enemies of state.
Over the weekend, we published a surprisingly popular article about recent testimony from former employees of the bank -- I strongly encourage you to check it out and, if nothing else, browse through the comment section. The testimony alleged, among other things, that Bank of America systematically delayed and unjustly denied mortgage modifications under the 2009 Home Affordable Modification Program. As a result, thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people unnecessarily suffered the indignity of losing their homes to foreclosure.
Why would Bank of America do this? According to one of the former employees, "[supervisors] regularly told us that the more we delayed the HAMP modification process, the more fees Bank of America would collect." So there you have it. If you unjustly lost your home to foreclosure courtesy of the nation's second largest bank by assets, at least you can sleep easy knowing that it made money off your misery. Exorbitant executive salaries don't pay themselves, you know.
Hyperbole aside, given this type of behavior, it's no surprise that Bank of America isn't held in very high esteem by either its customers or the public at large. But just how much is its reputation suffering? According to a recent survey by American Banker, it has the worst reputation of every bank that the publication examined.
The following table reveals a partial list of the results. The second and third columns contain the "reputation scores" of the institutions, which are "based on answers to survey questions measuring trust, admiration and respect, good feeling and overall esteem for specific brands."
While this list contains scores for only 10 of the 30 institutions examined, I trust you can get a sense for how things panned out for Bank of America. And to be clear, it was also the worst-performing bank of the entire bunch, not just the 10 above. Not only did it score the worst in terms of its own customers, but its reputation among non-customers was leaps and bounds below the next-worst performer, Citigroup (NYSE:C), which had a non-customer reputation score of 42.38 compared to Bank of America's 35.09.
One consolation here is that all of the too-big-to-fail banks settled at the bottom of the list. Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), in particular, was held in only slightly better regard by its own clientele, with a second-worst customer score of 55.75. And JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), while better, still found itself in the bottom third, with a markedly higher customer score, but one of the worst in the group in terms of how non-customers perceive it.
Regardless, the point here is that this is a problem for Bank of America. And I don't mean that it's a feel-good problem. Yes, it'd be nice for every company to treat the world and their customers in a friendlier manner, but let's be real: That just isn't going to happen. In this case, however, the overwhelming quantity of disdain heaped upon Bank of America is almost certainly having a substantive impact on its performance. And this is why it's time for the bank to get its act together.