Bank of America Corp.'s outgoing CEO Ken Lewis said Tuesday that the economy may be improving but the recovery in the financial industry remains slow.
In what may be his last address to analysts, Lewis said at a conference in New York that Bank of America and other banks continue to be under great pressure.
"If we are seeing the beginnings of a real, sustainable recovery, it is still in its very early stages and is still very fragile," he said. "But the economic signs as I read them give us reason to believe that we may be on the path to better days."
Speaking for only 25 minutes and not accepting questions from the audience, Lewis spent most of his presentation talking about the bank's performance in the first nine months of the year.
He said the bank's integration of Merrill Lynch & Co. is ahead of schedule and will generate more expense savings in 2009 than originally forecast. Bank of America has produced $2.2 billion in cost savings related to the Merrill acquisition through Sept. 30, he said.
Bank of America is among hundreds of banks that have received government support through the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. The bank received $25 billion as part of the initial round of investments when the credit crisis peaked last fall. It then received an additional $20 billion in January shortly after it acquired Merrill Lynch in what was a heavily scrutinized deal.
Lewis, who is retiring at year's end, is believed to have decided to leave the bank because of the strife that has surrounded BofA since the Merrill Lynch deal closed.
Bank of America, based in Charlotte, N.C., is searching for his replacement and said Monday it could be announced by Thanksgiving.
Shares of Bank of America rose 21 cents to $15.98 in morning trading Tuesday.