Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan is bullish on the state of the U.S. consumer, he told CNBC in an exclusive interview Thursday.
“As you look at the month of August, which we just got the final details on, it’ll be the strongest consumer spending growth in debit and credit cards year-over-year this year,” Moynihan said, adding that “the year-to-date consumers on our debit and credit cards are spending 4.7 percent more than they did last year, and the pace is accelerating. So, the consumer is in very good shape credit-quality-wise, spending-wise.”
That positive outlook comes after the pace of consumer loan growth across the financial sector in the second quarter had caused concern for some investors, but Moynihan was upbeat.
“The consumer loans that we’re putting on today, I’d say, compared to a year ago are pretty much the same. Compared to 10 years ago, much better quality,” he said. “But there’s still plenty of opportunity to grow.”
Moynihan also said that Bank of America’s recent cost-cutting initiative had further to go: “If you think about the second quarter of ’16 versus second quarter of ’11, we took out $20 billion of operating expenses on an annual basis. People then thought the costs would go back up. But no, there’s still more we can do on the core basis.”
Those reduced costs have been largely enabled by digitization, said Moynihan, who noted that online and mobile banking have allowed Bank of America to reduce its number of branches by 20 percent over the last “seven or eight years” and to increase its earnings despite a “tough rate environment.”
All the U.S. banks have had to contend with the Federal Reserve’s policy — now a decade old — of maintaining extremely low interest rates. Moynihan said a rate hike of 0.25 percent would be worth roughly $1 billion to Bank of America’s net interest income.
On the commercial side, Moynihan said credit quality is “pretty solid,” though there is “some nervousness” among clients ahead of the U.S. election.