Sometimes professions run in the family. Take Mark Malovos, managing director and associate general counsel to the wealth management mortgage business at Bank of America. He’s a ninth-generation Californian and third-generation lawyer—but it’s the way his ancestors leveraged law that most impacted his life.
“My grandfather was a tremendous person and lawyer,” Malovos says. “During World War II, he became concerned that land owned by his Japanese American friend would be confiscated after he was sent to an internment camp. To protect the property, my grandfather took the title, then granted the land back to his friend after the war. I can think of no better example of leveraging the law for good than that one act.”
Malovos has had plenty of his own opportunities to impact home ownership and use the law for good. Today, following a fourteen-year arc at Bank of America, he advises a business with $30 billion in annual mortgage originations.
Getting that in-house gig involved a circuitous route, considering his early training as a trial lawyer. After winning a years-long litigation battle, he realized that what he liked most about law was the long-term relationship with the client.
“Being in-house allows me to stay with a client through all the ups and downs of economic cycles, changing strategies, and evolving competitive landscape,” Malovos notes. “I want to be a strong advocate when litigation matters arise, but I also want to contribute value by avoiding crises in advance.”
“I want to be a strong advocate when litigation matters arise, but I also want to contribute value by avoiding crises in advance.”
In 2007 Malovos got his chance to advocate and contribute value when Merrill Lynch hired him as general counsel and corporate secretary at First Franklin, a subsidiary. In the wake of the global financial crisis, he was invited to become president and CEO, tasked with the difficult job of managing more than two hundred employees who were in risk-management mode as they sought to consolidate.
Even though times were stressful, Malovos remembers “an incredible Merrill Lynch team,” comprising teammates from all disciplines, who worked tirelessly together. “Everyone pulled in the same direction, and we achieved a great deal together for the good of customers, the company, shareholders, and employees alike.”
His stress-management style in the face of shifting times? “Stay as open and transparent as possible.”
Malovos’s ability to stay even-keeled during crises might come from his father, once a prominent civil and criminal trial lawyer in Sacramento and now a trusted mediator and arbitrator. “I saw how he was able to absorb the stress of the situation and client without bringing it home,” he says. “He taught me to keep your eye on the goal, chart the way forward, and be the voice of reason.”
A Physical and Mental Endurance Sport
During off-banking hours, you might find Mark Malovos getting involved in his community in a different way. A competitive distance runner in high school, he trained for years to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Today, he and his wife have run the Boston, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles marathons.
“It’s important to have something outside of work that is a release and escape,” he says. “Sometimes, when I’ve got a complex legal question, I go for a run, and it gets into my subconscious. Then, whether I’m actively mulling it over or not, things just have a way of working themselves out.”
He’s since brought those lessons to his current role at Bank of America. In 2010, Malovos was asked to help lead the bank’s collaboration with the Hardest Hit Fund, created by the Obama administration to find innovative ways to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. He was thrilled to hire back some of his previous teammates from Merrill Lynch and other companies. He and his team also worked closely with state housing authorities, the Department of Treasury, and elected officials.
“It was wonderful to see not only the entire $10 billion fund utilized for homeowner assistance but also the number of lives and homes impacted,” Malovos says.
Over the past eight years of growth and expansion, Malovos has been part of the bank’s efforts to deliver the full enterprise of banking products to its wealth management clients. This has included contract negotiation and addressing vendor relationships as part of a commitment to insource all bank mortgage origination fulfillment activities from third-party service providers. The results have been outstanding client satisfaction and mortgage volume.
As a leader, Malovos encourages his team to stretch and grow professionally. “Lawyers, by nature, tend to be risk averse and sometimes hesitant to extend themselves, even if they are perfectly capable,” he notes. “As manager, I always ask myself, ‘How can I enable this person to perform at a higher level?’ And then I endeavor to provide constructive and concrete feedback to that person that can be acted upon.”
Outside Bank of America, Malovos flexes a different kind of legal muscle. In 2008, shortly after moving back to Silicon Valley, Malovos joined the board of directors of the Campaign for Legal Services, a nonprofit that supports pro bono legal services to those in need on such issues as housing, children, immigration, and domestic violence. He returns this year for a second stint as cochair.
“It’s incredibly moving to see the positive impact these basic legal services have in getting people back on their feet,” Malovos says. “Even though there’s a lot of wealth in Silicon Valley, there’s also a lot of income disparity. It’s all about equal access to justice.”
It’s clear that diversity, equity, and inclusion remain more than code words for Malovos. “I truly enjoy working with people from different perspectives, geographic areas, family backgrounds. It leads to more vibrant discussions and a stronger work product,” he says.
After seeing how far that mindset has allowed his family—and the people they help—to go, it’s hard not to consider that kind of altruism an inherited trait too.