When most people think about banks, they imagine checking accounts or loans.
For Stacy Brandon, banking is the instrument that has inspired her life’s passion — helping people.
Brandon, a 56-year-old native of Greenville, has served as Bank of America’s Upstate South Carolina market president for the past three years.
She is responsible for 350 employees, 24 financial centers, 76 ATMs, three Merrill Lynch offices, and one U.S. Trust office, and is the face of the Charlotte, N.C.-based global bank’s presence in one of the fastest-growing of its 93 markets across the U.S.
So how did a girl who grew up off Augusta Road near Donaldson Center find herself in such an important role at one of the world’s largest financial institutions?
The answer is simple. She earned it.
But Brandon’s career success has also helped her to become one of the region’s most influential leaders, male or female.
First, let’s talk about her.
Warm, confident, cordial, and down-to-earth are all adjectives that apply to Brandon.
She’s as comfortable navigating the upper floors of Bank of America’s headquarters building off North Main Street in downtown Greenville as she is socializing with folks on the streets below.
“How did I get into this role? You get asked to do it,” Brandon said. “It’s really about who has the leadership mentality. … I’ve always believed in servant leadership. I’m not looking for the spotlight. We’re doing this interview so you’ll know about Bank of America. I guess I am Bank of America to the community.”
Brandon is one of three children of Bill and Rita Burch. She has two brothers.
She graduated from Southside High School, where she served as president of a diverse student body.
When it came time for her to choose a career path, Brandon decided to pursue calculus and physics because, she said, they were the most challenging for her.
Brandon attended the South Carolina Honors College at the University of South Carolina. She majored in finance and economics.
She said she decided to focus on business because of her love for people.
Brandon kicked off her career by entering a multidisciplinary commercial training program with the former Bankers Trust of South Carolina in Columbia.
After that bank became part of North Carolina National Bank (NCNB), Brandon continued working there and served in a variety of roles.
NCNB became NationsBank and eventually Bank of America.
In 1988, Brandon and her husband, Joel Brandon, a middle school teacher of U.S. history at St. Joseph’s Catholic School, decided to move back to Greenville.
The couple has two children, a daughter, Blaine, 30, and a son, Dylan, 26, who both live in Greenville.
Brandon replaced Andy Douglas as Bank of America’s Upstate market president in July 2015.
Outside of the bank, Brandon is involved in the community. She serves as a board member of the Greenville Tech Foundation.
She has held leadership positions at several organizations, including the Upstate Chapter of the American Red Cross, Greenville County March of Dimes, Pendleton Place Children’s Shelter, the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, Greenville Chamber, Emmanuel’s Hammer, and the Upcountry History Museum.
In her spare time, Brandon loves hiking in the mountains, reading, and gardening.
“Being the market president, I know so many people,” Brandon said. “I’m connected with so many people. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to kind of pay that forward and connect other people.”
“That’s one of our things [at Bank of America],” she added. “We talk about making financial lives better through the value of financial connection. That’s internally. But I think, in the community, we make lives better when we connect people to organizations where they can find their passion. And that’s what we need. We need one-on-one connections in our community to make things better.”
Now, let’s talk about Brandon’s role at Bank of America.
The bank has what it calls its “eight lines of business,” Brandon said.
Four of them are focused on consumers, three are business, and the last one is institutional.
Brandon said the institutional line relates to investment managers, big foundations, and people who need access to trading and very high-level products. Most of that work is done out of the bank’s offices in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles.
The consumer and business lines are the ones that apply to the Upstate.
Brandon said the consumer lines encompass Bank of America’s financial centers and things like checking accounts or car loans.
The bank also has what it calls its Merrill Edge. That’s its retail consumer platform for investments.
“It can be self-directed, online, however you want to do that,” Brandon said.
Bank of America’s third consumer line in the region is led by its full-service financial advisory teams at its Merrill Lynch offices in Spartanburg, Greenville, and Clemson.
The fourth line is U.S. Trust, a private wealth management office in Greenville that works with wealthy families to help them manage intergenerational wealth, trusts, estates, assets, and other things.
“[Consumer lines are] the people side of our lines of business,” Brandon said. “We cover the affluent all the way to the average everyday person.”
On the business side, Bank of America serves small businesses with annual revenues of $5 million or below. Brandon said those businesses fall more into the consumer category.
“We consider that part of our consumer business because with most small businesses the owner is the business,” she said. “We really have to integrate around that person.”
That means that really the first of the bank’s business lines applies to business with revenues from $5 million up to $50 million.
The second line is middle-market banking, which Brandon said is really where her day-to-day duties reside.
“My clients are $50 million up to $2 billion [in revenue],” she said. “And they can be anywhere kind of in the Upstate, from North Carolina and into Georgia along the I-85 corridor.”
She said her job includes helping those companies with loans, retirement plans for their employees, managing deposit accounts, and other tasks.
The last group is Bank of America’s global corporate and investment banking team.
“They’re going to handle your $2 billion and above, Fortune 500, BMW, Michelin kind of guys,” Brandon said.
“So all of those people are represented in our community,” she added. “Even though we are a very large organization, for us, local is important. Behind every single one of those lines of business is a person. A person who is meeting with a business owner or consumer that needs a checking account or a credit card.”
Brandon’s leadership of Bank of America’s Upstate market and her view of her role in the community can best be summed up in her own words.
On her market president role:
“At Bank of America there are 93 markets. What that means is our CEO, Brian Moynihan, believes there ought to be one person in each community to which the community can look. … I’ll figure out what you need and I’ll find the right person to help you get [where you want to go]. The market president is responsible for driving our responsible growth strategy.”
On the bank’s responsible growth strategy:
“After the financial crisis, you might have heard some bad things about Bank of America. We have done a tremendous amount of work to be accountable to the community and do things the right way. And that strategy is called responsible growth. It has four big pillars. We’re only going to do things that are customer-focused. In other words, a customer has to want this product. We’re not going to go out there and invent something. They want a checking account, we’re going to offer a simple, easy checking account. … It’s going to be sustainable. That has to do with the environment and it also has to do with things that we can do over and over again that are predictable, that aren’t going to upset the apple cart. … Then we have a risk framework. Banks have to take risks. Every time we make a loan, we’re taking some risk that it’s going to be repaid. We have a very board-driven risk framework so that we don’t get into trouble or become a hindrance to our economy. … Lastly, we’re going to grow no matter what. We want new clients. We want our clients to send their friends to us. We want to be the bank for everybody in the U.S. That’s just our goal.”
“I’ve always been involved in leadership. I was student body president at my high school, president of my sorority. I’ve been president of pretty much every board I’ve ever been on. I just gravitate toward that. I’m really careful about what I take on because I’m very passionate about doing it the right way. … A lot of people might just get on a board to say they’re on a board. I’m never on more than two boards at a time. It’s just not fair to the organization.”
“It takes people in your life to look at you and say, ‘Hey, I think you would be good for that.’ As I get to this stage in life, I’m looking around now and thinking about whom in this Bank of America organization I can tell, ‘I think you need to get involved in this.’ Or I’ll ask them, ‘What are you passionate about? What do you care about? Let’s go find that organization you can get involved in.’”
On helping others through the bank:
“The coolest part about what we do — when you look at what causes people worry, the No. 1 thing is their health. The No. 2 thing is their financial situation. … So what we do in every line of business, everyone that’s talking to a client, is we’re trying to find a way to make their financial lives better. … In my world, working with businesses, it’s, ‘OK, you’re ready to build a plant in Germany or Brazil. How do we help you make that happen?’ So every day what we’re doing is trying to make that person, that nonprofit, make their financial lives a little better. It’s not curing cancer or solving the North Korean missile crisis. But day by day, person by person, we can impact their financial lives, lower that stress level, and put them on the path [to where they want to go].”
On being a banker in the Upstate:
“If you look at the data, we are in one of the most exciting, fastest-growing, coolest places in the whole country. … We have a good, diverse economy, too. The other cool thing about my job is I have so many different clients. None of them really do the same thing. I get to learn about their business, what makes them successful, and figure out how we can help them.”
On technology’s impact on the banking industry:
“We’ve been working on this for about six or seven years now. We study it all the time. We study the behaviors of our clients. And we really just want to be driven by what they want. We see millennials coming. We’re going to have financial centers, but we see them as being there for life events. You know, ‘I just got married. I need to get my name changed.’ Or there’s a death in the family. Or ‘I need a safe deposit box to put stuff in.’ There will be life events that cause people to say, ‘I need someone to talk to.’ What our clients really seem to want is to interact with us when they want to. At night, on the weekends, they want to do it themselves. Whether it’s on their PC, their tablet, or on their phone. So we have ways for them to do all of those things. And we’re going to continue to try to do it better, make it faster, and make it easier for them.”
On the growth of community banks:
“We’re one of the big, systemically important banks, and we know that. We’re OK with that. We feel like we have an obligation to the country and the global financial system to be absolutely as sound as possible and do things the right way. So we are really fine with the regulatory environment right now. There’s some work being done on Capitol Hill to give regulatory relief to smaller banks. And I think our position is that’s not a bad thing. They should not be treated the same way we are. … I think the financial services industry is going to evolve just like every other industry. There’s always going to be niche players. … And that’s great. That’s what our country is built on: people who think they’ve got an idea and then go make it happen. And it will continue to happen. … We’re all going to be subject to what the economy does. In the Upstate we have a great economy. We should just try to take advantage of that and be supportive of it.”
On Bank of America’s growth:
“If you look at our market share [in the Upstate], we are No. 2. We’re behind Wells Fargo, but year-over-year we are growing because we are adding new clients. And Greenville, Spartanburg, the Upstate, everything is growing. But the thing I’m really proud of is we’re growing faster than most of our competitors. … We’re really proud of that.”