Andrew C. Burns, chief investment officer of Hamilton Point Investment Advisors LLC, a registered adviser, Chapel Hill, N.C., writes:
This is the story of how a 130-year-old model banking institution was snuffed out for doing business the way we now wish all banks would. The bank was Wachovia. Its undoing was its insistence on caution in handling other people’s money.
When I worked for Wachovia in the early 1980s, I was struck by how different it was from Irving Trust in New York City, where I had completed a corporate lending and executive management training program. The professionalism was similar, but the atmosphere was so much more, well, egalitarian. At Irving, dining facilities were divided by caste – the lowly ate in a giant cafeteria in the basement, first-level officers had custom dining a few floors up and top executives rode special elevators past the troops to a private space near the top of the building. Wachovia had one country-cooking cafeteria, where leaders including President John Medlin and Chairman Hans Wanders were just as likely to sit with a group of secretaries as a team of banking officers.