William Mumma's departure from Bankers Trust Co. may conclude the company's senior management shake-up, but observers say it also may spark a wave of middle-management defections.
Mr. Mumma, head of the beleaguered derivatives unit at Bankers Trust, on Wednesday resigned his post. The move punctuates a reorganization designed to downplay development and trading of exotic and volatile derivatives.
Alex Frick, the bank's senior officer in Japan, has been named to succeed Mr. Mumma.
Sources close to the bank said the management change could lead to significant turnover in the ranks of middle management.
"Once you get down to (Mr. Mumma's) level, you're talking about a whole cadre of people worldwide who got hitched to him," said a source close to the bank. The derivatives unit "could end up having a completely new team by spring of 1996."
Bankers Trust spokesman Tom Parisi downplayed that possibility. He said management's expressed commitment to derivatives operations, as detailed in a recent internal memorandum, should be seen as encouraging to the staff.
Mr. Mumma's departure probably will be the last among the ranks of senior management, according to a source close to the bank. However, the source also conceded there is no guarantee that middle-management personnel would remain unchanged.
Mr. Frick will report directly to Yves de Balmann, who has been given responsibility for running the bank's new risk management and services group.
Mr. de Balmann will continue to act as chairman of Bankers Trust International, and he will be co-head of the New York firm's investment banking operations.
Mr. Parisi said legal difficulties played no role in the management reorganization.
"Management's intent was to bring together under one organization each of our businesses that have to do with assisting clients and managing risk," he said. "I think the action management has taken here reflects our very strong commitment to risk management and the derivatives business."
Last month, Brian Walsh resigned as co-head of the firm's investment banking operation. He had run the derivatives operations before Mr. Mumma took over in April.
In September, Eugene Shanks resigned as president after being passed over to replace Charles Sanford as chief executive. That appointment went to Frank Newman, who takes over as chief executive on Jan. 1.
Bankers Trust has been shaken during the past 18 months by a series of lawsuits resulting from the sale of complex structured derivatives products to several corporate clients.
The bank's derivatives business suffered as a result, as corporations restricted derivatives dealings to plainer, less profitable instruments.
Sources say there are no indications that Mr. Mumma was involved in the activities that provoked lawsuits. Prior to being named to replace Mr. Walsh as head of derivatives, Mr. Mumma was in charge of managing the bank's internal risk positions.
But he apparently was left out in the cold following Mr. Shanks' resignation. Mr. Mumma reportedly had close ties to the former president, and the reorganization was seen as the last straw leading to his departure.