Chase Manhattan Corp. signaled it would focus more intently on building equity underwriting and asset management capabilities, hiring Morgan Stanley & Co. veteran Neal S. Garonzik to lead the effort.

Mr. Garonzik, 52, has joined the $357 billion-asset banking company as vice chairman and a member of the senior executive team, reporting to William B. Harrison Jr., the president and chief operating officer. He is responsible for Chase's asset management business and "strategic initiatives" in equities and other areas, the company said.

As other commercial banks bought up investment banking firms in the last three years, Chase struggled with whether to buy or build its own equity business or do some combination of both.

Observers said, however, that the addition of a seasoned Wall Street executive to Chase's top management team suggests that the company is leaning toward building an equities business on its own.

Mr. Garonzik joins Chase on the same level as the two other vice chairmen who run the bank's wholesale banking group: James B. Lee Jr., head of investment banking, and Donald H. Layton, head of markets and international activities.

In an interview Monday, Mr. Garonzik left room for all possibilities. "I don't come in with a bias" toward building or buying, he said. "The issue of equities has been studied for some period of time here, and we will examine different options going forward."

Mr. Garonzik added that he has not set a time limit for the launch of Chase's equity underwriting unit.

Asset management has also proved to be a challenge for Chase. The unit has been restructured several times over the last three years, and Chase, with $189.6 billion of assets under management, ranks far behind companies like Merrill Lynch & Co., with $515 billion under management, and Fidelity Investments, with $773 billion. A recent survey by Institutional Investor ranked Chase 25th in the business, Merrill Lynch third, and Fidelity first.

"This is an area that needs to be developed," Mr. Garonzik said.

Analysts said the hiring of Mr. Garonzik was a positive development. "It adds another level of expertise to the executive committee," said Henry C. Dickson, an analyst at Citigroup's Salomon Smith Barney unit. "It means the whole process is more informed."

In a memorandum Monday, Mr. Harrison told employees Mr. Garonzik would "add tremendous depth to our strategic thinking in terms of how we should develop equities, asset management, technology, and other strategic opportunities at Chase."

At the same time, Chase has also elevated Jeffrey Walker, managing partner of its equity investment unit Chase Capital Partners, to the senior executive committee, expanding the inner circle surrounding Mr. Harrison to eight.

Deborah L. Duncan, Chase's executive vice president in charge of asset management activities, will report to Mr. Garonzik.

A second layer of senior executives, who make up the bank's policy council, has been expanded from 23 to 56, "to ensure we can share best practices and move quickly when opportunities present themselves," the memo from Mr. Harrison said.

Mr. Garonzik was at Morgan Stanley from 1980 until 1989, and again from 1993 until 1997, serving most recently as a member of the firm's management committee and head of its equity division.

Since 1997, Mr. Garonzik said he has acted as a consultant to Chase in addition to working on various outside interests.

He said he has had discussions about the role with Mr. Harrison dating back as far as 1997, the year he left Morgan Stanley.

"The company is a couple of years further down the road in the development of its role in the securities business," Mr. Garonzik said about the decision to join Chase officially. "It's a good time."

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