Banking mogul Hugh McColl Jr. considers his crowning achievement to be making Charlotte into the hub of activity that it is today.
Asked Wednesday by a guest at the Friends of Scouting dinner – an annual Georgia-Carolina Council Boy Scouts of America event – about his top accomplishment, the former chairman and CEO of Bank of America said it was building the North Carolina city into a thriving metropolitan area that people flock to for its arts, sports and nightlife.
McColl, who retired from Bank of America in 2001, advocated the redevelopment of Charlotte’s downtown and was a key player in bringing professional football and basketball teams to the city.
“For years, Charlotte was like every American city,” said McColl, a fourth-generation banker. “It was vacant. People were afraid to go downtown. As a bank, we got behind it. ... We substituted greed for fear and then the developers came in and finished the job.”
A follow-up question – asking what it would take to bring McColl to Augusta to do the same thing here – was received with cheers by the audience.
McColl, a member of the Augusta National Golf Club, said Augusta doesn’t need much help, but any further revitalization must come locally – not from the federal or state government.
“Whatever happens is going to have to be driven from the local people,” he said. “I think y’all have good people, so I’m not worried about you.”
The overarching message that McColl shared was that leadership is fostered through trust.
“It really didn’t matter if your father was a rich banker or your father was a sharecropper,” said McColl, native of a small South Carolina town. “What really mattered was could you shoot straight. I realized it made no sense that a man could die in the same ditch with you that couldn’t drink from the same water fountain or go the same bathroom.”
That realization continued into his banking career.
“I realized that if I looked after the people that worked for me and with me, then they would look after me,” he said. “I didn’t, as a CEO, care one iota where somebody came from ... if they put on my uniform, they were one of mine.”
McColl also spoke of his recent meetings with President Obama’s administration, in which he advised the president that the key to helping small business is not by more loans, but providing more equity through tax credit investment.
“They agreed it would work, but they didn’t like (it),” he said. “I’ve gone there three times now talking to them in the last year, and I tell them the same thing every time. I haven’t got a new idea. That’s my idea.”