Retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Bank of America
Banking on Success
Richard M. Rosenberg graduated from high school in Fall River, Massachusetts and earned a degree in journalism from Boston’s Suffolk University in 1959. He joined the Navy and later moved to San Francisco where he accepted his first job in banking. The financial help offered to veterans spurred Rosenberg to go for his Masters Degree. “Being naturally frugal, the G.I. Bill offered me an opportunity to advance my education.” He entered Golden
Gate University, and graduated with a M.B.A. in Business Administration.
Due to the continuing availability of the GI Bill, the ever curious and energetic Rosenberg decided to add another GGU degree an LL.B. in 1966. Combine the above degrees with practical working experience, varied duties in the Navy, and a growing curiosity about the banking world, and this was one promising young man.
Rosenberg credits the Navy for much of his personal growth. “The Navy changed me. Why? Because the Navy was a true meritocracy. It was maybe the first time I knew that a person could advance by ability alone. Family background, the amount of money you had, the right religion, or an Ivy League education simply did not matter." The Navy made him a manager of ideas, men, and situations. Serving during the Vietnam and Korean conflicts, he learned not only the theories of managing problems and people, but found the daily practicality a training ground.
In 1959, Richard began his path to bank management excellence and fame. Moving to San Francisco with his pregnant wife, Barbara, he took his first job. With the necessity of providing for three, Rosenberg began working for Crocker-Anglo Bank as a publicity assistant, and, subsequently, for a Wells Fargo Bank.
Richard would hop on a Greyhound bus and go to night school at Golden Gate University. He had already found a natural interest in marketing and advertising. As an undergraduate, he had taken a couple of marketing courses and found the creative potential of marketing an area that captured his imagination.
Four years after receiving his M.B.A., Richard Rosenberg graduated again from Golden Gate University. This time with a LL.B degree from the Law School. He says with another quick smile, “I made good use of the GI Bill.”
Rosenberg’s natural abilities as a leader began to shine in each of his banking experiences. His viewpoint of seeing banking as a whole from the daily operations, to the happiness of the customers, to the satisfaction of employees, to the evaluation of the pieces of the puzzle which added or subtracted from a bank’s success in competitive markets, set new standards. Emphasis on strengthening international banking presence, acquiring other banks, and establishing banking positions in other Western states were also part of his objectives. He was in the forefront of developing bank credit cards. The road to success spanned 30 years. The banking world added many methodologies based on Richard M. Rosenberg’s idea of what banking could be.
Rosenberg’s next innovative marketing contribution earned him the title of “father of packaged accounts.” What appealed to the consumer was the availability of coordinating all accounts under one plan: checking, savings, credit card, safe deposit boxes, and other services. The relationship between the accounts was a plus factor in client decision-making about using a bank. Other banks soon added these “bundled accounts.”
In 1987, he became Vice-Chairman of the Bank of America in San Francisco. And three short years later, Richard M. Rosenberg was ushered into the top spot at Bank of America: Chairman and CEO.
Rosenberg had stressed and practiced during his banking years what he termed the “three fundamental components” of success. His list includes: 1) an unshakeable commitment to quality control, 2) strategic investment in human resources by putting the right people in the right positions and developing their talents, and 3) using technology to enhance convenience and efficiency. His ability to put these components into practice, paired with his years of success and innovation in banking despite his meager upbringing helped Rosenberg earn the Horatio Alger Award as a distinguished American in 2007.
Richard and Barbara Rosenberg share a love of “giving back” to the community. They regard participating in organizations as “A personal value, and a personal dedication. It is not a question of should we, but one of responsibility.” He served on the Golden Gate University Board of Trustees until 2006.