On Friday, John Rosenfeld had not even reported for his first day of work as Bank of America Corp.’s consumer e-commerce executive, but he was speaking like an expert.

“There are three huge opportunities for Bank of America with regard to e-commerce,” he said in a telephone interview on his final day as a global e-business leader at General Electric Aircraft Engines. “They can make significant gains in developing customer relationships. … They can expand the amount of services and products they offer to each customer” and, finally, the company can “incur significant productivity benefits.”

A former Army Special Forces captain who served in Operation Desert Storm, Mr. Rosenfeld, 33, is accustomed to taking command quickly. The same confidence that helped him, at age 28, oversee the training of thousands of soldiers and interact with foreign chiefs of state will probably serve him well as he zeros in on the Internet situation at Bank of America, an institution that has grown wildly through acquisitions.

“E-business can help to bridge and pull together that organization and make it more efficient,” he said.

Mr. Rosenfeld joins Bank of America today after a two-year stint as e-business portals manager at General Electric, where he built an infrastructure to support the company’s Internet aircraft business, introduced a customer Web center, and established links between GE and key customers.

He said his immediate priorities at Bank of America will be to expand its electronic reach, build customer self-service applications, and add online features to deepen customer relationships. First, he intends to do a “huge amount of information gathering” about the company’s business and what consumers want, he said.

Bank of America is starting a two-year, $45 million campaign with CheckFree Corp. to promote online banking and electronic bill payment and presentment. Mr. Rosenfeld already has opinions on what can be done to expand the number of online customers, which is a major Bank of America goal.

“One of the key things for any kind of consumer online presence is usability,” he said. “How intuitive is the site? How easy is it to find the information you need? How well linked are all the applications on the site?”

Another priority is to make sure Bank of America’s Web site is relevant to customers, Mr. Rosenfeld said. This, he said, is a matter of answering the question: “How well do the online services you provide align with what the customer’s exact needs are?”

Mr. Rosenfeld also said that, though his instinct is to take quick control of situations, the people serving under him need not fear he will be a Napoleon-type leader.

“I am very much a collaborative manager,” he said. “A lot of people would think, ‘Military, oh my God, here comes the drill sergeant.’ ” However, though he will define his division’s goals, he says his approach is to build a team by installing capable people around him.

Mr. Rosenfeld earned his managerial stripes as a captain and unit leader in the Green Berets, the Army’s Special Forces. He served in the Army for seven years before starting his first stint at GE in 1996. He left two years later to become the manager of e-commerce and worldwide Web operations at Lexmark International, a printer manufacturer in Lexington, Ky., where he worked for two years.

Though he saw no combat during Desert Storm, “it was almost a trial by fire,” he said. “I was dropped into a situation where I had to step up and learn a lot about how to manage people.”

At Bank of America, he will report to Amy Brinkley, president of consumer products, and Mark Argosh, consumer and small business e-commerce executive.

Consumer online services are a relatively new area for Mr. Rosenfeld. Most of his experience at GE was in the business-to-business realm, though he gained some consumer service knowledge while working at Lexmark.

Mr. Rosenfeld called the Internet one of his chief passions. He said he first became interested in it while working at GE and taking night classes, one of which was an elective on the Internet.

“It was like Tiger Woods had found golf,” he said. “I wanted to do this for the rest of my career. Some people follow the Grateful Dead. I wanted to follow the Web.”

The transition to banking may be more of a stretch, but Mr. Rosenfeld said he is up for it. “I get really excited about the banking industry because I come from the world of physical products. In banking, the majority of products and services are information- or transaction-based, and there is an awesome opportunity for e-business, which is about how do you do business more effectively and serve customers’ needs more effectively.”

Mr. Rosenfeld’s is the latest in a string of high-profile hirings from outside the company initiated by Bank of America under Kenneth D. Lewis, its new chairman and chief executive officer.

Last Monday the company announced it had hired Bond R. Isaacson from Visa U.S.A. to promote new forms of electronic payment. In January it appointed Charles P. Goslee, an Eastman Kodak executive, to fill the newly created post of quality and productivity executive, and John Quinn, a FedEx Corp. veteran, to be transaction services executive.

Mr. Rosenfeld, a Massachusetts native who lived in Cincinnati while working for GE, is wasting no time moving on to the next phase of his career. He already has bought a home near Bank of America’s Charlotte, N.C., headquarters, and he plans to bring his wife, Cathy, their 6-year-old twin boys, and another son, 4, there soon.

He is not even taking vacation time before starting his new job. “I’ll take time off when I die,” he said, “I’ve got too much to do now.” From Our Archive


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