On the surface, it may look as if Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and the wildly popular A&E reality series Duck Dynasty have no commonalities at all. After all, the first is a huge bank holding company, and the other is a TV show featuring a family of self-proclaimed "rednecks."
Take a deeper look, however, and the parallels begin to surface: They are both rags-to-riches stories, and both entities have suffered setbacks that would have sunk less plucky enterprises. Both have their avid fans, as well as detractors -- people who hunger for information about these particular enterprises on a regular basis.
The strongest common trait between these two entities, however, is resilience -- a similarity that shows through clearly in a side-by-side comparison.
True success stories
In each case, the ambitious founder built a business based on the belief that he could vastly improve upon the options that existed at the time. For banking, that meant the creation of the Bank of Italy, which lent money to working-class people who could not find credit elsewhere; for hunting enthusiasts, it meant the birth of Duck Commander, a new company fashioning hand-crafted duck calls that would eventually attain national renown.
Both men came from austere backgrounds. Italian immigrant Amadeo Peter Giannini attained wealth after years of hard work, as did Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson, who was born into poverty in Vivian, Louisiana. Through sheer persistence, both men moved closer to their goals, whether they were creating a network of national bank branches, or making a good living by hawking handmade duck calls.
Dark times, followed by redemption
Both men endured early setbacks that might have led to the current incarnation of each company never existing. For the future Bank of America, it was a partnership that nearly caused the bank to fold, necessitating a daring rescue from Giannini. For Duck Commander, it was early rejections of Robertson's product that could have sunk the company were it not for its founder's unusual tenacity.
Both have suffered reputational damage as well. Those familiar with Bank of America's story know that its Countrywide acquisition caused the bank to lose face once the financial crisis laid bare the extent to which Countrywide had participated in the subprime mortgage market. Even today, the manner in which customers are treated by the big bank still rankles.
Still, investors have rallied behind Bank of America, sending its stock soaring 200% since late 2011. Customers haven't forsaken the bank either -- B of A holds the largest chunk of depositors' money among domestic banks, easily trouncing both Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase.
Recently, Robertson's comments during an interview caused a ruckus, prompting A&E to suspend the clan's chief from the show. Fans interceded, however, presenting the network with a petition to reinstate the show's patriarch that garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures.
Persistence is key
This is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek comparison, but adherence to the principle of dogged determination applies to both Bank of America and the Robertson business empire. Without it, B of A, with its series of crises and redemptions, would have failed long ago. Two other CEOs have also wrestled the great bank from the brink of disaster in its long history, the most recent being Brian Moynihan -- who has been instrumental in reducing the bloat caused by his predecessor, Ken Lewis.
Despite the bank's ongoing legal troubles, Moynihan has made it clear that the Countrywide debacle is fading into the past, and that Bank of America will eventually shake off the negative effects of that ill-conceived merger. Though other mortgage-related problems loom, Moynihan's plan to restore the megabank to its former glory is still on track -- and with his unshakeable dedication to that goal, it's only a matter of time until Bank of America leaves yet another painful era in its long history far behind.