CHICAGO - Lacking a chief financial officer since May 1, Bank One Corp. chairman and chief executive James Dimon could be closing in on his choice to fill the job.
It's believed the former Citigroup Inc. executive would like to have the appointment wrapped up by the end of June, when the second quarter ends. The nation's fifth-largest banking company is mum on the subject, but industry observers are guessing it could be sooner, and speculation is mounting on whom the $273 billion-asset company wants for the job.
For Bank One, the selection of a chief financial officer will be an important step toward repairing its strained relationship with Wall Street.
Bradley Vander Ploeg, an analyst at First Union Securities Inc. in Chicago, said a name that has surfaced lately is that of Fifth Third Bancorp's Neal E. Arnold, who is the Cincinnati-based company's CFO. Fifth Third declined to comment, and Mr. Arnold was not available.
"It's a name that I have kind of heard out there," Mr. Vander Ploeg said. "He's made quite a name for himself on the Street. He's a relentless cost-cutter and is regarded as an efficient operator."
But Mr. Vander Ploeg, and other analysts, are quick to caution that the price tag to land such talent, given Mr. Arnold's position in the hierarchy of the strong-performing Fifth Third, would be a costly move.
Diana P. Yates, an analyst with A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis, said someone like Mr. Arnold has so much of his net worth and future worth tied to Fifth Third, the chances of his leaving for the rebuilding Bank One would appear slim.
The same can be said for David M. Moffett, vice chairman and chief financial officer at Milwaukee-based Firstar Corp. His name was also rumored to be under consideration, but analysts say a move to Bank One is doubtful. Firstar would not comment on the speculation.
"Both David Moffett and Neal Arnold are two of the wizards of the banking industry and know financial magic," said Michael Mayo, an analyst with Credit Suisse First Boston. He said, however, that both seem "entrenched and content" in their respective companies. "We can't imagine either one moving over to Bank One."
Ms. Yates said it is very possible Mr. Dimon may look outside the banking industry altogether to find his new CFO.
"He may want someone with a completely fresh perspective," she said.
Also in the mix, if some of Bank One's recent top-level hires are any indication, are those who work at Mr. Dimon's old employer, Citigroup.
In May he hired former Citigroup executive William Campbell to join Bank One as a senior adviser on technology and consumer strategy issues. He also looked to Michael Cavanaugh from Citi to head the company's strategy and planning division.
The selection of a CFO will cap off a period of sweeping change in the executive suites at Bank One that unfolded both before and after Mr. Dimon's arrival in late March. Bank One's former chief financial officer and 26-year company employee, Robert A. Rosholt, retired early last month. Also in May the head of the company's corporate banking division, W.G. Jurgensen, and middle-market banking head Susan S. Moody tendered their resignations. Jurgensen on Tuesday was named the new chief executive officer of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. and Nationwide Financial Services Inc.
In October Richard Vague resigned from his spot as chairman of Bank One's troubled First USA credit card division. A month later James W. Stewart resigned from his post as chairman and chief executive officer of the company's online venture, WingspanBank.com. Both executives in May announced they were forming Juniper Financial and an online bank that would compete with Wingspan.
Former Bank One chairman and chief executive John B. McCoy resigned from the company in December amid a series of earnings disappointments. Two vice chairmen, Richard J. Lehmann and David J. Vitale, retired last year.
Beyond CFO, the last senior executive job that Mr. Dimon must fill, unless he creates new positions, is the replacement for F. Gerald Byrne, who resigned as head of capital markets. A Bank One spokesman said that position should be filled in the next two to three months.