The Bank of America was formed in 1998 after the merger of California based Bank of America and the Nations Bank of North Carolina. At the end of the 20th century the bank stood as the second largest bank in the American market with close to 4500 branches operating in 21 states. Most of these branches were located in high growth markets of the south and west coast. Globally, it employed 1, 40,000 employees across 190 nations, over $8 billon in revenues, $360 billion in deposits and some $600 billon in assets.
However the markets had been consolidating for sometime with the total number of banks in America having reduced to 7000 from an figure of 14000 first recorded in 1985. Intense competition characterized the market and the challenge for national banks was to be able to localize product and service offerings for their customers.
Financial services had traditionally been looked upon as commodities by banks and lack of experimentation marked the sector. The sector was however slowly realizing that traditional methods of cost reduction and other control mechanisms could only take growth so far. Organic Growth', a higher wallet share of existing customers was a concept of much relevance in the highly competitive market. For achieving this Bank of America had given more freedom to individual bank managers to undertake more responsibilities. Others like Washington Mutual (WAMU) had introduced new models of customer experience, benchmarking their services with other service oriented industries retailing.
Banks traditionally functioned without dedicated R&D departments and new product innovations were the domain of marketing departments which lacked formal processes, methodologies and resources needed for genuine effort. IT systems in place in banks were more support oriented.
In the late 1990s though, Bank of America structured an Innovation and Development (I&D) Team within its force. This step was taken in...