Richard Rosenberg, the marketing genius who transformed Bank of America into a national powerhouse, passed away on March 3, 2023, at his home in San Francisco at the age of 92. Rosenberg was known for his innovative strategies, which helped make Bank of America profitable again after a run of bad loans in the early 1980s.
Rosenberg was born on April 21, 1930, in Fall River, Massachusetts, to Charles and Betty Rosenberg. His father was a World War I combat veteran and haberdasher who lost his job and the family home during the Great Depression, while his mother was an immigrant from Russia. Rosenberg graduated from Suffolk University in Boston in 1953 and joined the Navy shortly thereafter, serving during the Korean War and spending 12 years in the Naval Reserves, reaching the rank of commander.
After moving to San Francisco in 1959, Rosenberg began his career in banking at Crocker-Anglo, selling payroll services. He spent 22 years at Wells Fargo, rising through marketing and advertising positions to the finance side and ultimately to the role of vice chairman. Rosenberg was briefly president of Crocker-National before joining Bank of America in 1987, where he was recruited by its then-CEO, Tom Clausen, to run its California operations.
Under Rosenberg's leadership, Bank of America became the nation's second-largest bank through a series of acquisitions, including a 1992 deal with Security Pacific that, at the time, was the biggest banking merger ever. Rosenberg's innovations, such as credit cards and bundling multiple products and services in a single account, made banking more convenient and attracted new customers. Bundling, in particular, was a new marketing strategy in banking at the time and is now commonly used by many companies.
According to Mike Rossi, a former Bank of America executive who worked under Rosenberg, he was a very creative person who knew how to meet the markets. Rosenberg understood what consumers wanted and communities needed, and he made it a policy to travel to branches to talk to the people who worked and banked there. Rossi also recalled that after the police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1992, Rosenberg called him and gave him one hour to come up with a plan to help neighborhoods affected by the riots to rebuild. The next day, they began setting up a $200 million loan program, knowing it could be a total loss and have to be written off.
Richard Rosenberg was not only a successful businessman but also a philanthropist who never forgot his humble origins. At his death, he and his wife had donated money to over 150 organizations, including Suffolk University, where they created the Rosenberg Institute for East Asian Studies.
In conclusion, Richard Rosenberg was a visionary leader whose innovative marketing strategies transformed Bank of America into a national behemoth. His commitment to meeting the needs of customers and communities, as well as his dedication to philanthropy, will be remembered by those who knew him.