Tag Archives: Bank of America

April 3, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Reputation Bracketology: General Motors vs. Bank of America

General Motors: A few months ago, GM seemed to be leading the charmed life. The “new GM” had put the bailout behind the company, and exuberance for its new CEO Mary Barra abounded. And then came the recall. Some experts say that Toyota’s settlement is a precursor for what may come for GM, which could change its game. But for right now, GM gets high marks for an effective, transparent response. Prior to the recall, Barra highlighted reducing bureaucracy as one of her priorities, and a culture of accountability will serve the company well during times of trouble. As a new CEO, she has the ability to be the person who solved the problem, without necessarily carrying the baggage of creating the problem.

Bank of America: Thomas Jefferson had a bank account at Bank of America. They are, after all, Bank of America. Just a few short years ago Bank of America was touting its “higher standards,” was growing rapidly and seemed certain of an entrenched position among America’s leading companies. Until the company wasn’t.

Today, it seems the company has a lot of work to do if it wants to be seen as more than just a profit monger. Clearly, tone deaf is a trait that is pervasive in financials services, as evidenced by Bank of America’s decision to increase ATM fees in the midst of a reputational firestorm. This is one case where use of the CEO seems ill-advised, as he seems to make things worse, not better. Bank of America has the lowest customer satisfaction of its peers, and although profitable, its financial performance is showing signs of vulnerability and volatility.

Winner: GM, because it is rising to the occasion far better than Bank of America. Of course, should the investigation reveal that corporate bureaucracy or greed caused a “hush up” – the outcome may be very different in future rounds.

Up Next: The first match up of the Reputation Bracketology Final Four: Target vs. JPMorgan Chase.

Here’s our updated bracket:


March 28, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged , , , , , , ,

MWW Reputation Bracketology: Scorecard of Corporate Reputation Madness

It’s that time of year again where March Madness has replaced Mad Men as the big topic at the office coffee machine. Analysis of bench depth, strength of schedule, and of course…the bracket-busting upsets. Imagine if we could apply the same kind of bracketology to the notion of corporate reputation. After all, companies are fighting for relevance – in both mind share and market share – every day. MWW’s Reputation Bracketology will look at companies who have been tackling the most severe challenges to their reputation.

Currently, industries like retail, hospitality and entertainment, automotive, and financial services are facing the highest level of risk among those with reputation failures over the past year. We’ll consider a variety of factors that put a company’s reputation at risk – which should all be top of mind for the CEO and the C-suite team. Our scorecard will look at the extent that the public’s perception influenced their decisions and actions. By how much did the company lose its key stakeholders’ trust, and how did that manifest in negative ramifications for the company? This manifestation of a lack of trust could be a plummeting stock price, a loss of market share, a disengaged consumer who is not buying anymore, negative forecasts from analysts, or even worse…negative comments from the company or its employees.

Who is on the bubble? Who is a bracket buster? Which No. 1 seed will fall?

Here’s a preview of our featured companies from four categories: retail, hospitality/entertainment, automotive, and financial services.


Target: From hero to zero with one massive data breach? Or will the icon of affordable style be able to bounce back?

JCPenney: It’s hard not to root for JCPenney, the perennial underdog; and average teams win big with great coaching. Will retail veteran Mike Ullman once again help JCP find a winning lineup, or will the beleaguered department store run out of steam in the final minutes?

Hospitality and Entertainment

SeaWorld: Conventional wisdom says that defense wins championships. It is hard to imagine anyone who has needed to play more defense than SeaWorld in the wake of Blackfish. But SeaWorld plays a unique form of defense – known as denial – insisting that declining theme park visits is a coincidence.

Carnival Cruise Lines and the Cruise Industry: Like a team that takes a beating then comes right back to play, Carnival Cruise Lines has been grappling with a rapid fire of issues that come at them like a team where everyone can shoot 3-pointers.


General Motors: If Mary Barra is the new coach everyone couldn’t wait to see in action, she is getting a quick trip to reputation’s big dance via a recall that some say should have happened 10 years ago. Will her honeymoon period be short like PJ Carlesimo when he made it to the NBA – often hired, and often replaced?

Toyota: The Japanese auto-maker’s recalls dujour haven’t won them any favors with regulators or legislators; and it’s hard to go the distance without a fan base.

Financial Services

Bank of America: Like a recurring favorite beleagued by a series of scandals from recruiting, to performance altering drugs to grade inflation, Bank of America may find itself effectively sidelined from the Big Dance, or the team the fans love to hate. Do you have to be liked to win?

JPMorgan Chase: What happens when you merge archrivals like Duke and UNC? The “haters” of both teams join together. What should have created a super-team has created an organization that is wildly inconsistent. But Jamie Dimon just won’t quit – could 2014 be the year they peak at the right time?

This blog will be a series tied to the March Madness games, so check back on Monday for the kick off matchup.

October 13, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

Occupy Wall Street Must Get Relevant, and Fast

If you live in the NYC area and watch the evening news, you might have the impression that Occupy Wall Street is the biggest thing to hit since Lady GaGa. Think again.

In a recent poll, just 17 percent of Americans say that they are following the protest closely – down from one in four in April. It is not surprising that more people followed the death of Steve Jobs than Occupy Wall Street…but more people are also following the situation in Afghanistan closely than OWS.

It seems to me that the OWS protest is more like organized labor’s inflatable rat than a real movement…you see it, and move on without engaging unless you are already a supporter.

Why? The protestors are certainly getting plenty of ink and air – which is the key criteria for legitimacy for many in my profession.

  • Sustainable movements need a leader. A face for the cause. Would the Civil Rights movement of the 60s been the same without Martin Luther King Jr.?
  • You have to be for something. Much like the broader, more generic protests of the 60s, it is clear that the OWS protestors are against “the establishment” – but they offer little in terms of specific recommendations. President Clinton pointed this out in a recent interview, and recommended that the protestors get behind the Obama Job Plan.
  • They need defining moments that create a real connection with the broader population. Historically, these moments come from the missteps of the establishment, particularly law enforcement. One of the founders of the movement seems to think that the arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge are that moment – but I’m not sure that is sustainable. And I’m not sure jumping on the beat up Bank of America bandwagon will do it, either.

In totality, OWS needs a relevant, sustainable narrative, delivered by a credible and compelling spokesperson.

March 1, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged , , , , , ,

Should Succession Planning Be A Communications Priority?

Succession Planning is a hot topic, with some of America’s Most Admired companies in the thick.

Speculation abounds about Warren Buffett’s successor, with general consensus being that Berkshire Hathaway can succeed in naming a potential new CEO, but that Buffett couldn’t be replaced. The communication about identification of successors, “should Buffett need one” are presumably about Buffett’s age…and perhaps a bit of a reaction to all of the emphasis on succession planning due to recent photos of a frail, thin Steve Jobs (who missed Apple’s annual meeting) entering a cancer clinic.

In contrast, it would seem that discussion of a successor at Apple might, unfortunately, be prudent, in the midst of Steve Jobs third medical leave in seven years. Yet Apple’s shareholders rejected a proposal requiring that Apple detail a succession plan. The company had opposed this proposal from the Laborers International – who has been advocating for succession planning and disclosure of such for the past few years and made similar proposals to Whole Foods and Bank of America.

There is no doubt that succession planning is a Board of Directors’ imperative…but should it be a communications priority? Do your stakeholders need to know about your succession plans, or simply need to know that you have plans in place? This is particularly sticky when your leader is iconic, like Buffett and Jobs.

My two cents: stakeholders need to know that you have a succession plan in place, like Frontier Communications’ innovative board member/potential successor mentor program. Unless that succession is imminent – whether a planned succession like Gates or Welch, or potentially accelerated by a health problem, or scandal, like HP, the specifics of your succession plans need not be disclosed. It undermines the authority of the leader in place, and diminishes his or her relevance.

In a perfect world, a succession is planned with an appropriate transition period…the successor is named, has his or her “tires kicked” by key constituencies, and works closely with the current CEO through a transition period. By the time that transition occurs, it becomes somewhat of a non-event. But we all know that this isn’t a perfect world.

What to do when succession is forced, unexpected or accelerated? This is the time for amped up communications programs to support the new leader…to build trust, engage key stakeholders and create a leadership platform and profile for your new leader. Make the time. Or you may be dealing with another succession sooner than you planned.

February 28, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged , , , , ,

Wisconsin, the NFL and Labor’s Big Opportunity

The drama unfolding in Madison, Wisconsin is bigger, better theater than just about anything on last night’s Oscars, with the kind of high drama, and battles to take ownership of the proverbial white hat and categorize opponents as black hats. And while the attempts to diminish or even eliminate the state workers’ rights to collective bargaining have caused unprecedented amounts of conflict, I am guessing labor leaders are secretly thankful for this extremely difficult, combustible scenario.

Because this situation may accomplish what EFCA, BofA protests, and NFL tweets couldn’t — people are sympathetic to the labor cause again, in a manner we haven’t seen in more than a generation.

Not too long ago, in my home state of NJ, the Governor took on the teachers union, and encouraged voters to reject school budgets to send a signal to teachers about the need for “shared sacrifice.” The bailout of the auto industry left many with a decidedly anti-union point of view, believing that the demands of the UAW over decades rendered a city, and indeed an industry, non-competitive. Labor was on the fast track for some pretty negative labels – entitled, unyielding and an impediment to economic prosperity.

Then came the events of Madison…and once again labor finds itself carrying the mantle of the working man (and woman) in need of protection, representation and intervention between the working men and women and the big boss, in this case, the state.

Will labor be able to capitalize on these events and sustain their relevance with the media, and more importantly, the American people? Or will they return to the entitled, unyielding labels that have plagued them for decades? Their next steps will be important…and have a long-term effect. Either way, it should be an interesting show.