Bank of America's consumer banking chief, tipped to be a leading candidate to replace outgoing chief executive Kenneth Lewis, said he is keen to step into the top job but will stay on if he misses out, addressing one of Wall Street's most talked-about issues.

Brian Moynihan, considered an outsider who joined the largest U.S. lender after it acquired FleetBoston in 2004, is one of several candidates named to fill Lewis' shoes after he retires at the end of the year.

Anybody would want this job, it's one of the best jobs in the business, he told Reuters on Wednesday on the sidelines of a speaking engagement in Los Angeles. This is a great company and I will continue to do a great job for it, no matter what the outcome.

Guessing who stands in line to succeed Lewis -- who held the job for eight years -- has become a popular parlor game on Wall Street. Bank of America has said it is considering six internal candidates, including Moynihan, but the Wall Street Journal has also reported that the lender may reach out to Bank of New York Mellon CEO Robert Kelly.

The board is in process as they have said, they're working expeditiously, he said without elaborating.

The bank's top executives are also grappling with persistent criticism over what some deem an ill-advised deal to buy Wall Street securities giant Merrill Lynch.

Moynihan, who ran Bank of America's global corporate and investment banking division when it bought Merrill, said he has no regrets about a deal that has since drawn regulators' and investors' ire.


Various regulators are investigating why Bank of America did not disclose details about losses at the investment bank and brokerage before the January 1, 2009 acquisition.

It's done everything we thought it would and more from an operating basis, Moynihan said, adding that sales and trading were what was driving growth.

It was a great strategic deal for the company, it's proven to be great customer synergy, said Moynihan.

He would not say if he has been subpoenaed to testify in any of the investigations, but said the investigations were not too much of a distraction.

Bank of America posted a $1 billion third-quarter loss as consumer credit woes eclipsed investment banking earnings, underlining why the bank remains on a government respirator.

The lender received two taxpayer bailouts totaling $45 billion after buying Merrill and mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp at the height of the financial crisis last year.

Moynihan, echoing comments by a number of his peers, told an audience of businesspeople at an event sponsored by Pepperdine University, that there were growing signs that the U.S. economy was pulling out of recession.

He estimated that the economy would grow 2 to 2.5 percent in 2010 -- still less than trend growth.

The worst of the financial crisis is behind us. I don't think we give ourselves enough credit for what we've been through, he said.

But he added: The hangover won't go away for a few years.

(Writing by Edwin Chan; Editing by Valerie Lee)