Bank of America chief: half of banks won't exist in 5 years

In a speech in Washington, D.C. on Friday, Bank of America Corp. CEO Ken Lewis said he envisions a banking industry that is smaller but better.

He declined to predict when financial markets might recover, but said that many banks will have to merge or be bought out in order to survive.

Speaking Monday in a TV interview, Lewis said that, of the nation's some 8,500 banks, about half might exist five years from now.

"The result ... is less outright failure, and more of the walking wounded," Lewis said. "...I think that's a good thing - the survivors will be stronger, more diversified, and better prepared to thrive in cycles to come."

Lewis couldn't help but brag briefly about his bank's weekend acquisition of Merrill Lynch. But Lewis, also acknowledged that he "couldn't have been more wrong" when he said early last year that the growth of the global financial markets 'will only accelerate in the years to come.' "

Said Lewis: "My only defense is, I was far from alone."

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