Aug 24, 2023 - Things to Do

Hugh McColl shares his wisdom with Ric Elias in new show

Hugh McColl and Ric Elias

Hugh McColl has done more in retirement than most folks do in a typical career. That’s saying something, considering he finished his career as CEO of Bank of America.

The 88-year-old McColl has founded six companies, by his best count, since retiring 22 years ago. But he’s also taken on an unofficial role as adviser, friend and mentor to the next generation of leaders, including Red Ventures CEO Ric Elias.

Driving the news: McColl and Elias talked for nearly an hour for a recent episode of Elias’s podcast, “3 Things.” In a series full of high-profile interviews — including Erskine Bowles, Capt. Sully Sullenberger, and basketball coaches Brad Stevens and John Calipari — the McColl interview stands out.

  • Elias is a billionaire who’s pledged to give away half of his wealth. McColl is a banking legend who’s pledged to live to 100 and spend his remaining years giving his time and money to healing inequities in Charlotte.

The intrigue: Elias is one of Charlotte’s most influential people, but his reverence for McColl and other leaders who came before him is clear throughout the conversation:

  • “You have left us all both a gift and a legacy, and a responsibility. Many of us have to try to do what you’ve done for the city.”

What he’s saying: McColl, meanwhile, is as sharp and funny as ever. A few quotes of his I jotted down:

  • On why he’s still involved, including joining the UNC Charlotte board of trustees at 88: “I keep busy. And I think that helps keep me alive.”
  • On an early 1990s meeting with then-candidate Bill Clinton in a rural Georgia hotel to discuss interstate banking laws: “He was late as always. We ended up talking in his hotel at about 9 o’clock. He ordered fried chicken. I don’t really like fried chicken. He ate the whole bucket. … Hillary’s trying to sleep in the bed, and I’m talking to Bill and we talked until 2 in the morning.”
  • On today’s divisive politics: “What has pulled us together is something that challenged the nation. Wars. A common enemy. The common enemy today may be global warming. It may be that we’ve got a common enemy and we just haven’t recognized it yet.”
  • On his family history: “McColls are Scots. … I always say we were defeated warriors and cattle thieves. And we came to this country and we couldn’t find any cattle to steal so we became bankers.”
  • On the key to his 63-year marriage to Jane Spratt McColl: “Doing what you’re told.”
  • On his work for the city: “I’m much more pleased at what I’ve been able to accomplish as a citizen. You know you like to think you made a difference in the world you lived in. I guess that’s really all I ever wanted to do, that when I die, they say, ‘He mattered.'”

Listen to the full episode.

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