When Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch everyone expected a culture clash. The conventional view stereotyped Merrill Lynch as a hard charging, classically Wall Street firm and Bank of America as a genteel, mannered, North Carolina company. Manhattan vs. the South. To some extent, this was true. But a new book by Financial Times reporter Greg Farrell makes clear that there were some very creepy aspects to the culture created by then Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis. New York magazine reviews the book noting the portrait of J. Steele Alphin.
"A former military-history major, Alphin instituted a creepy system in which senior executives at the bank were each assigned a 'shadow,' an emissary from HR who followed them everywhere, taking notes and reporting back to Alphin on what they had said and done. He also guarded Bank of America's culture with the zeal of Cerberus, as Merrill's investment-banking head, Greg Fleming, would find when Alphin summoned him to his office to deliver this amazing speech:
" 'We're like the wolf,' Alphin said, leaning over his chair, a playful smile on his face. 'The wolf doesn't hunt for packs of animals. It stays behind the pack and looks for the weak ones that can't keep up, or the ones who wander from the pack.'
"Fleming was transfixed.
" 'My advice to you is to stay up front with the herd,' Alphin said, warming to his topic. 'Stay at the front of the pack. If not, the wolf will get you. And remember, the wolf is hungry and rarely fails.'
"Fleming started to say something but didn't know what to say.
"Alphin continued. 'It's your decision, but the view is better from the front of the pack. Do know there is a wolf there and he will get you. And the wolf is hungry.' Alphin made a playful biting gesture with his hand, in case Fleming didn't grasp the meaning of his words. 'He'll git you.' "
- here's the review