CHICAGO - Bank One Corp. says the pieces have long been in place for it to attract wealthy customers, but its efforts in the high-net-worth market lacked a focus.
To change that, James Dimon, chairman and chief executive of the nation's fourth-largest banking company, said Monday that Bank One has created a private-client services unit and appointed a CEO to oversee the business.
The new unit CEO, Peter Atwater, 39, has been chief operating officer of Columbus, Ohio-based Banc One Investment Advisors, a business that manages more than $130 billion of assets. He will continue to report to David J. Kundert, who is in charge of investment management.
Mr. Atwater said his mission is clear. "This part of the business, both strategically and from an opportunity standpoint, should be significantly larger for Bank One," he said in an interview. "Our goal is to provide services in a more seamless fashion."
In reorganizing Bank One's approach to high-end customers, Mr. Dimon is aiming to make the $273 billion-asset company more competitive with the likes of Northern Trust Co. and J.P. Morgan & Co., where Mr. Atwater once worked. The theory behind the new approach is simple, Mr. Dimon said.
"There's a general feeling that putting together all those things which service the high-net-worth, private banking client will do a better a job to build a plan to deliver services and products to them as opposed to keeping some of these separate," he said in an interview. "Organizing around the client is normally a very productive thing to do."
With all of Bank One's mergers in the last few years, such services have lost some of their growth momentum, he said.
"We all think this should be one of the growing parts of the business," Mr. Dimon said. "I think it's got great potential."
Bank One needs to sharpen its attention to the wealthy if it is serious about attracting these clients, analysts said.
"This is an area that banks are going after with an increasing amount of energy," said David Stumpf, an analyst at A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis. That means a more crowded field of competitors, he added. "Without a specialized unit that can focus its resources and make sure the products are competitive, you're not going to be competitive."
Bank One's private-client services unit will offer customized portfolio management, private banking services, tax management strategies, financial and estate planning, trust services, and specialized insurance services.
Something as simple as Bank One's making the organizational shift to private services can have a significant impact in the eyes of wealthy customers, said Bradley Vander Ploeg, an analyst at First Union Securities in Chicago.
"Catering to the affluent-client market is a very lucrative business," he said. "Those clients really expect a catered effort targeted toward them and one that's very focused. This is a clear sign that Bank One views that as a necessity and they want to get their act in gear."
Before joining Banc One Investment Advisors in 1998, Mr. Atwater was treasurer of Bank One Corp. and before that was executive vice president and treasurer of First USA Inc., the credit card company that Bank One bought in 1997.
Mr. Atwater held posts at J.P. Morgan & Co. before going to First USA, including managing director and head of the company's asset-backed securities business, vice president of its oil and gas department, and assistant treasurer of asset-backed financing.