Up Front: June 2009

From the vault

We once had an editor who believed the magazine put too much emphasis on banking, an accusation to which I, as the guy guiding BNC’s coverage the last 22 years, can only plead guilty. I wonder what he’d say about this month’s issue. But in our — my — defense, I question how a magazine whose mission is to chronicle business in this state could possibly give the topic too much ink.

Of all the changes the last three decades have wrought on the Tar Heel economy, none is more dramatic than the growth of the Queen City into the nation’s second-largest financial center, home of not only the biggest U.S. bank but headquarters of two of its four largest ones — until Wells Fargo swallowed Wachovia last year. If that assessment seems Charlotte-centric to some, consider that we’re in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, one being felt by everyone everywhere and whose roots can be traced to the credit crisis that ensnared the banks and other financial institutions.

Few could have imagined the emergence of Charlotte as a banking center, but one who did is Hugh McColl, under whose leadership what is now Bank of America was forged. But if the events of the past quarter-century can be described as eyebrow-raising, those of the last few months qualify as jaw-dropping. Columnist Dan Gearino offers thoughts on what they mean for Charlotte’s banking community — as well as its civic pride.

Of course, Tar Heel banking covers a lot more territory than Charlotte, and Senior Editor Frank Maley surveys the larger landscape with two more stories, including a look at the Financial 100, our annual ranking of the largest banks, thrifts and credit unions based in the state. His other piece explores the plight of — or, as the case might be, the opportunities that the credit crisis affords — community banks, which despite their number too often are lost in the shadows when the media spotlight their bigger brethren.

Yes, we put a lot of emphasis on this industry. And you can bank on our continuing to do so.