To say Michael J. Rothmeier has a lot on his plate is an understatement.
Recently named managing director for investment services at Fleet Financial Group, Mr. Rothmeier is trying to figure out how to combine the retail and institutional brokerage operations of Shawmut National Corp. with Fleet's.
"Right now I have more questions than answers," he said.
Mr. Rothmeier is in charge of marketing investment products to Fleet's retail and institutional customers, municipalities, and not-for-profit organizations. He also will direct the marketing of Fleet's employee benefits business and discount brokerage operations.
Fleet, a $51.3 billion-asset banking company based in Providence, R.I., announced its intentions to acquire Boston-based Shawmut in February, but the deal hasn't closed yet.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Rothmeier shied away from discussing his strategies for pushing investment products through the combined Fleet- Shawmut branch network.
Right now, he said, the challenge is to integrate the two organizations without significantly disrupting the company's relationships with customers.
Mr. Rothmeier said he was helping Fleet combine 180,000 participants investing about $2.5 billion in both banks' 401(k) plans. The company has management teams scrutinizing the two banks' record-keeping systems, trying to figure out which one is more efficient and cost-effective.
Another concern for Fleet executives is whether the banking company will add sales charges to its no-load proprietary fund family, the Galaxy Funds. Shawmut's fund family, the Shawmut Funds, have a load.
If the company slaps a load onto its funds, how does Mr. Rothmeier keep investors who came to Fleet because the funds were load-free?
"We are in the process of thinking through the merging of the two fund complexes, and we should have an announcement in the next week or two on those issues," he said.
Not all things are in flux, though.
One definite outcome of the acquisition is a reduction in the number of brokers the bank will employ. Fleet is trying to squeeze out cost savings from the acquisition, which means Mr. Rothmeier is forced to cut the combined bank's brokerage staff of 225.
He is looking to cut his staff to between 150 and 200, depending on how many of the combined companies' 1,143 branches are closed. Fleet has 116 brokers; Shawmut employs 109.
Fleet could have the 15th-largest bank brokerage unit in the country if it kept the entire staff, according to Cerulli Associates, Boston. But,"there are economic issues to be considered," Mr. Rothmeier said.
Mr. Rothmeier's new post was announced more than two weeks ago.
He was in a tight race for several months with his counterpart at Fleet, Richard Jones. But Mr. Jones jumped ship in June to take a plum position at Barnett Banks Inc., to run the Florida company's retail savings and investment business.
Mr. Rothmeier is credited for leading Shawmut's entree into retail investment sales when he arrived from Fidelity Investments in 1992.
He also oversaw the launch of Shawmut's proprietary mutual fund family, which has $1.3 billion in assets under management.