Despite the sudden ouster of its chief technology officer last week, computer operations at the Bank of Boston will not be profoundly affected in the short term, industry sources predicted.
But over time, observers said, the bank will need to find a replacement for Michael Simmons, who is credited with giving the bank a conerent technology strategy at a time when the organization was in disarray.
Mr. Simmons, who for the last 3-1/2 years has been executive vice president of technology, was forced to leave the company last week, along with Kevin J. Mulvanney, who had headed national banking, and Newton P.S. Merrill, who was head of global banking.
Edward A. O'Neal, head of New England banking, will take over responsibility for technology operations and development, in addition to retail and private banking. Michael R. Lezenski, Skip Patterson, and Monte Ford, who reported to Mr. Simmons, remain in place.
"There is probably enough strength in the lieutenants that there will be no major disruption," said one industry observer, who asked not to be named. "But within two years, Bank of Boston probably will bring in someone else."
The company said the moves, which simultaneously elevated both Mr. O'Neal and chief financial officer William J. Shea to vice chairmen, were designed to create a more responsive reporting structure by eliminating a layer of management.
Analysts said the move could mean a greater emphasis on retail business.
Rift Is Cited
Insiders said the move was the result of a split between the bank's chairman, Ira Stepanian, and the three executives, who were said to be candid in expressing their views.
The executives also had helped to rurn the bank around, observers said.
Mr. Simmons had largely put in place the framework for the bank to move to common systems, and to so-called client-server computing, a technology designed to make information easily available to workers across an organization.
He was recruited just three years ago from BankAmerica Corp., where he was credited with fixing a desorganized and demoralized systems unit.
Mr. Simmons was the first of several executives, including Mr. O'Neal and Mr. Merrill, that Bank of Boston hired from outside the bank to build a new management team at a time when the bank was digging out from mounting commercial loan losses.
Worked for Consolidation
At the time, Bank of Boston also was struggling with a hodge-podge of disparate and outdated systems, many of them inherited from acquisitions.
"With Simmons and his team, consolidation became the No. 1 priority," said Mr. O'Neal.
"I happen to believe as strongly as Mike did that we must have a common technology base" across all the bank's acquisitions.
Technology investment also shifted toward a greater emphasis on retail operations - where the bank sees its future - under Mr. Simmons. Now 40% of technology spending goes to retail technology, versus only 20% two years ago, Mr. O'Neal said.
One project begun under Mr. Simmons that Bank of Boston will continue is what the bank calls internally the "retail work-station."
The system, based on client-server computing technology, will give a common look to personal computer systems in branches, to automated teller machines, and to telephone service centers.
While Bank of Boston's systems are now on the right road, the bank still faces difficulties. With an expense-to-revenues ratio of 69%, the bank must cut costs. The bank has pledged to reduce its overhead ratio to 60% by 1995.
Bank of Boston officials said they expected a "cascading effect" from the departure of the three executives.
A committee of 29 heads of business units now will meet frequently to discuss commong goals, and they will be expected to flatten management in their own areas.
Mr. Stepanian, the Bank of Boston chairman, "took the move at the top, and tha was an indication to the rest of the organization to flatten also," Mr. Patterson said.