is trying to ensure that the 200-year-old institution does not miss out on the Internet age.
Next Monday, Mr. Harrison, 55, will mark five months in the CEO's office. During that time he has acted swiftly to put his mark on the $371 billion-asset company, shuffling key managers, forging a deal for an equity underwriting firm, intensifying Chase's focus on technology, and, in general, demonstrating that the next generation has taken over.
Mr. Harrison has spent much of his time emphasizing that he wants Chase to be ready to participate in the "New Economy" ushered in by the Internet. "The Internet is -- or should be -- a top priority for every company and CEO," Mr. Harrison said in a recent speech to investors. "Chase has a full-court press on the Internet."
The urgency to get Internet-savvy is evident. Within weeks of being named chief executive officer last spring, Mr. Harrison decided the company needed a separate business devoted to Internet project development. Chase.com was formed shortly after he took over as chief executive in June.
In early September, Mr. Harrison took the company's nine-member executive committee on a whirlwind tour of Sun Microsystems and Microsoft. Executives who went said the trip was the first of its kind.
International Business Machines Corp. chairman Louis V. Gerstner Jr. has also paid a visit to the bank to talk about technology issues, and Microsoft chairman William H. Gates 3d plans to come soon. Next month C. Michael Armstrong, chairman and chief executive officer of AT&T Corp., is scheduled to speak at a technology symposium for 1,000 Chase employees, who will hear about new technologies and how Chase is participating in them.
Executives said the changes have boosted enthusiasm among Chase's 72,683 employees, particularly those under 35 years old. "The interest he's shown in this area really resonates with the younger generations at the bank," said Joseph G. Sponholz, a vice chairman and technologist who was handpicked by Mr. Harrison to run Chase.com.
Walter V. Shipley, the previous CEO, always acknowledged the importance of technology but was known to rely on his lieutenants to formulate and execute strategy.
In contrast, Mr. Harrison "is more hands-on with technology development and the future of the New Economy and how it impacts Chase," Mr. Sponholz said. It's the difference between someone born before World War II and someone younger, he added.
Outside Chase, the changes have been interpreted as a smooth changing of the guard. Mr. Shipley, 63, kept the chairman's title and comes into the office three days a week -- but has joked about having nothing to do.
Mr. Harrison "is clearly -- and a little surprisingly -- trying to push the bank farther and faster in a couple of directions," said David Hilder, an analyst at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. "It shows he's confident in the direction and not concerned with upstaging Mr. Shipley." Other newly minted chief executives working under similar circumstances might hesitate to make bold changes right away, observers said.
The Southern-born banker was long considered a top contender to succeed Mr. Shipley. The two have worked together since their days at Chemical Banking Corp., which Mr. Harrison joined in 1967. Like Mr. Shipley, Mr. Harrison has shown a preference for delegating day-to-day management of specific businesses to focus on broader issues.
"He's very much a strategy guy," said Donald H. Layton, a vice chairman. "He gets involved when it's important or urgent," but he's not a micromanager.
Outside observers portrayed his style as genteel but added he has been a demanding boss. Mr. Harrison portrays himself as a confident leader. "I'm not the type of person who goes home and agonizes over a decision I've made," Mr. Harrison said.
His intense focus on technology has been surprising because he does not have a strong background in the area, Chase executives said.
On the other hand, his exposure to tech companies as head of global wholesale banking may have informed his direction as chief executive, Mr. Layton observed.
His actions signal more a shift in mood than in strategic direction for Chase, observers said. Mr. Harrison's goals as chief executive are similar to those of his predecessor.
Refining strategies "is a natural part of his skill set," said James McCormick, president of First Manhattan Consulting Group. "It's a continuation of the momentum."
Immediate priorities at Chase are to concentrate on asset management, equity underwriting, and expanding wholesale activities in Europe and the Internet.
Asset management has struggled to overcome sluggish revenue growth and high expenses. Chase has also long wanted equity capability for its global wholesale bank.
A shuffling of managers during the summer was designed to address some of these issues. Mr. Layton, head of global market activities, was given added duties overseeing the global services business, freeing up Mr. Sponholz to run Chase.com.
James B. Lee Jr., a vice chairman, was given control over all of the investment banking activities.
In August, Neal S. Garonzik, former head of securities operations at Morgan Stanley, was hired to put a greater focus on asset management and also to help develop a strategy for building equity capabilities.
Mr. Harrison also put to rest the question of whether Chase would buy or build equity underwriting operations, announcing a $1.35 billion deal for San Francisco-based Hambrecht & Quist Group last month.
The announcement caught some by surprise. Chase had long been rumored to be the suitor of far larger Wall Street firms, including Merrill Lynch & Co. and Morgan Stanley. As recently as last year, Mr. Shipley and other executives suggested that the bank would not be interested in acquiring a boutique operation.
But Chase executives portray the Hambrecht & Quist deal as a technology-based transaction as opposed to an equity play.
Chase already has a role developing New Economy companies through its venture capital arm, Chase Capital Partners.
The addition of Hambrecht & Quist, which specializes in public offerings for technology firms, means Chase won't have to sit idly by while venture capital clients, such as StarMedia Network Inc. and GeoCities, turn to rival Wall Street firms to launch their IPOs.
Other changes are subtler. Employees said communication has opened up under Mr. Harrison, who sends out a monthly e-mail to all employees known internally as "Harrisongrams." The staff is encouraged to respond with questions or suggestions to a special e-mail site, and each month about 200 to 300 do. Mr. Harrison tries to personally respond to a few of those.
Reporting lines are also more direct. During the summer, the number of representatives on the senior policy council more than doubled, to 56.
One seemingly minor change appears to have made an impact -- casual-dress Fridays at the company's Park Avenue headquarters.
"It's a symbol of a generational shift," said a khaki-clad, tieless Mr. Layton one recent Friday. The change signals younger employees that "management's more with it."