The importance of technology in retail banking was a key factor in last October's management reshuffling at Barnett Banks Inc. that saw the dismissal of Thomas Johnson Jr., who oversaw branch operations, marketing, and investment products.
The bulk of Mr. Johnson's job has gone to Jon Palmer, chief of technology at the Jacksonville, Fla.-based bank. His responsibilities now also include branch automation and the bank's retail strategy.
The move, which was downplayed by Barnett, was a surprise to analysts. "I didn't know of any rumblings or indications," noted Richard Stillinger of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. in New York. In fact, he said, the shift wasn't even mentioned at an analysts' meeting. "I was so concentrated on this new lineup, including Jon Palmer, that it didn't even strike me that Tom Johnson was not in evidence until" the meeting was nearly over, he said.
At the meeting, Mr. Stillinger said, Barnett presented technology "as the crucial factor in retail success and, therefore, Barnett is investing heavily in it."
John Coffey, an analyst with Robinson Humphrey in Atlanta, noted that Barnett has for the last several years been putting a great deal of focus on retail banking.
He said the management shift "just goes to underscore how important technology is going to be going forward."