If only some of the older shareholders took a lesson or two! Bank of America Corp. (BAC) held its annual shareholder meeting recently, and there was input from none other than 15-year-old Natalie Clarke.
Clarke wanted to know what the bank was doing to raise its share price. The ninth-grader owns 5,000 shares in BAC that were given to her as a child, but her concerns are the same as those of shareholders at a wide variety of banks, writes Christina Rexrode for The Wall Street Journal.
BAC shareholders hear from ninth-grader
Shares in major banks are struggling due to low interest rates, new regulation and volatile markets. Clarke spoke for a number of BAC investors when she asked how shareholders could get better value.
This was not the first time that the 15-year-old had made her voice heard. She has been at three consecutive annual meetings, and even asked why her dad was given redundancy from the bank. He has since been rehired.
Another of the issues she has raised is that of the gender pay gap. However recently her thoughts have turned to the stock price as she considers how to pay for college tuition.
Why don’t more shareholders take an interest?
She hopes to study at Notre Dame, where BAC CEO Brian Moynihan also studied. She pressed him on how the bank could become more efficient, an area in which it has struggled to match its peers, to which Moynihan replied that he would keep cutting costs.
Shares have been roughly flat since Moynihan became CEO, and down 11% this year. This is a sharper drop than experienced by other banks.
After BAC stock fell 6% in 2015, the bank raised Moynihan’s pay from $13 million to $16 million, a move which puzzled Clarke. However the bank did make its largest annual profit in almost 10 years.
Likely to the ire of Marty Lipton, Clarke is also confused as to why more shareholders don’t take an active role in the running of the companies they are invested in. “There’s a lot of people who own repurchases in Bank of America,“ Miss Clarke said, but at the annual meeting, “there’s barely enough to fill half a ballroom at a hotel.” There were around 100-150 people in attendance.
Clarke received her shares in 2002, when BAC shares traded at around $34. They are now around $15.
“You and I are both looking at some pretty bad numbers,” Miss Clarke told Mr. Moynihan.
We hope (and assume) Miss Clarke’s GPA numbers are slightly better.