Hugh McColl: Business can create change

Monday, February 21, 2022
Retired Bank of America CEO speaks at Belk College.

Much of Hugh McColl Jr.’s life has centered on one thing: Change.

In the early years of his career, McColl, then a young banker at what would become North Carolina National Bank (NCNB), sought to expand the industry south of the Big Apple.

“As a Southerner, I felt the view that we didn't have any capital in the South, and we really had to go to New York to get anything done, and I didn't like that,” said McColl, who spoke during the Belk College of Business Spring 2022 C-Suite Speaker Series. “So I decided I wanted to change that, and I spent the next 42 years doing that.”

Businesses Influencing Change 
His fireside chat with Belk College Dean Jennifer Troyer, presented live via Zoom with a small audience of Belk College students on Thursday, Feb. 17, focused on a broad range of topics, from leadership and risk taking to his work after retiring as chairman and CEO of Bank of America in 2001.

McColl continues to use his entrepreneurial experience to influence change, though now he focuses on investing in the arts – both his mother and sister were artists – and on building minority-owned businesses. 

He said creating racial equity starts with shifting the cultures within a business or industry.

“The businesses of America can make the biggest change the fastest,” McColl said. “And they can do it in the hiring process. They can do it in philosophy of where they purchase goods. They can do it through philanthropy and do it many different ways.” 

In recent years, McColl has learned that minorities who want to open or expand a business lack access. He said he admits for most of his career, he almost never encountered competition from women or people of color. 

“What I can help them with is contacts and, and helping them get contracts and things… The real thing is to open up opportunities and provide training, and that's really what I'm working on,” McColl said. 

“Young people today are competing with the world…  Those of us who prospered out of the old world need to be sure that we understand that and pay it back.”

Longtime Advocate

McColl, who moved to Charlotte in 1960, has been a longtime advocate for the University. 

His involvement spans decades, serving on University boards, steering fundraising campaigns, underwriting campus initiatives and helping bring Charlotte 49er football to life. 

“The truth is that the University's been way more important than it actually gets credit for,” McColl said. “You're looking at your own statistics. I mean, the number of people you have living here, working here that are graduates of the University, play a big part in Charlotte's history.” 

McColl’s schedule also included a small networking session with students and a golf cart tour of campus led by Charlotte Chancellor Sharon Gaber. 

C-Suite Speaker Series, in its seventh year, features alumni and friends of the Belk College in leadership positions who interact with undergraduate and graduate students. 

The series is presented by the Niblock Student Center and the Belk College External Relations team.


About the Belk College of Business
Established in 1970, the Belk College of Business offers business education programs at the undergraduate, master’s, doctoral and executive levels. The Belk College is one of the Carolinas’ largest business schools, with more than 5,000 students, more than 100 full-time faculty, and more than 34,000 alumni. Accredited by AACSB International, the college is committed to building strong partnerships in the greater Charlotte region and beyond as North Carolina's urban research business school. Learn more about how the Belk College is driving business at, and on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.