Bowing to pressures for improved shareholder returns, Chase Manhattan Corp. said Friday that it has hired a prominent consultant to advise it on what is likely to be an aggressive cost-cutting program.
Chase has retained Tandon Capital Associates, which is run by former McKinsey & Co. executive Chandrika Tandon. She was instrumental in radical restructuring and staff reduction programs at Fleet Financial Group, Midlantic Corp., and Republic New York Corp.
"Slashing and burning is Tandon's track record," said Raphael Soifer, a banking analyst at Brown Brothers, Harriman & Co.
Ms. Tandon, whose firm is based in New York, was unavailable for comment. Steven A. Rautenberg, a Chase spokesman, said the Tandon program has "no specific targets.
"We have made it clear for several quarters that productivity enhancements, hand-in-hand with revenue growth, will be critical going forward," Mr. Rautenberg said. "This is one way of addressing that problem."
Chase, which like Fleet will adopt "Focus" as the name of its cost- cutting campaign, has been under shareholder pressure since April when the investor Michael Price acquired a 6.1% stake. Mr. Price had previously acquired a large stake in Michigan National Bank, helping prompt its eventual sale to National Australia Bank despite determined resistance from management.
Ms. Tandon, 40, has a reputation for closely studying fee structures and using suggestions from employees to simplify production and reduce overhead. Tandon-designed programs at Midlantic cut $100 million of costs and 2,000 jobs. At Fleet, the savings were $300 million and 5,500 jobs.
Another Tandon client, Republic National Bank of New York, Republic New York Corp.'s main operating unit, said Friday that it would cut 850 jobs out of its worldwide total of 5,550. This, coupled with some 2,000 other proposed changes at the bank, should produce $75 million of annual savings, predicted chairman Walter H. Weiner.
Republic said it would take a one-time restructuring charge of $120 million before taxes in the second quarter, mainly to cover severance costs. Mr. Weiner rejected criticism from some quarters that Tandon's programs are so drastic they disrupt operations and reduce revenue.
Chase employs 34,000 people worldwide. In an internal memo to employees, chairman Thomas Labrecque said all would be asked to participate in the program. More than 100 people will be selected in New York and overseas by the end of the month to work full-time on the program "to generate and gather ideas."
Mr. Labrecque added that some measures will be adopted by yearend and will cause the elimination of an as yet unspecified number of jobs. Chase also said it "fully expects to exceed the $400 million expense reduction target" previously announced.
Chase's stock price barely moved Friday after the announcement, rising only 37.5 cents a share, to $44.375.
Analysts lauded the Tandon contract but noted that it is the latest in a series of attempts by Chase to reduce costs in recent years.
"It's a major move, and it means they are serious about cost cutting," said Susan Roth, a banking analyst at Bear, Stearns & Co. "But it's still too early to revise any forecast, and most forecasts already incorporate substantial cost reductions."
Mr. Soifer agreed: "They've raised the ante from $400 million. But I'm not sure they're going after the right problem, since Chase has mainly got a revenue problem."
Lawrence Cohn of PaineWebber Inc. said, "Cutting the revenue base is not a mistake, but what remains to be seen is how they use the savings that come from that reduction in expenses.
"So far, the record has not been a happy one."