Fleet Investment Services last week announced a slew of promotions in its unit that provides financial services to the affluent.

The seven executives promoted by Fleet Investment, the investment and trust unit of Fleet Financial Group, oversee a wide range of personal financial services that the bank offers through 20 offices in New York and New England.

Some of the positions in the personal financial services unit, which manages about $15 billion in assets, include trust, private banking, estate settlement, and investments.

Among the changes were promotions of five Fleet executives to senior vice president in several New England states. They are as follows:

Simone Cunningham has been placed in charge of personal trust and investment in Fleet's Western Massachusetts office in Springfield. In Connecticut, Michael J. Benson and James W. Fanelli were put in charge of trust, investment, estate planning, and private banking in the Farmington Valley, and Hartford, respectively.

G. Stevens Davis Jr. will continue to head Fleet's institutional asset management group in New Hampshire. Finally, Jeffrey J. Wirth, will keep overseeing retirement plan services in several New England States, including Connecticut and Maine.

The personnel changes come a month after the planned merger between Fleet Financial and Shawmut National Corp., a merger that has raised questions about the possibility of staff shifts in the private banking and trust lines of business at both banks.

But officials at Fleet said last week's changes are not related to the planned merger.

"I wouldn't read too much into this," said Richard H. Jones, president of Fleet's investment services unit. "These are well-deserved promotions that reward some of our key producers who have had a track record of excellence."

Mr. Jones said that, if anything, the changes are a result of the reorganization his $48.7 billion-asset bank underwent last year as part of its Fleet Focus '94 plan. The stated goal of that plan was to lower the bank's efficiency ratio - defined as noninterest expense divided by total revenues - to less than 60% by 1995.

As a result of the Fleet Focus reorganization, vacancies were left unfilled and some positions, including promotions, were on hold, said a Fleet spokeswoman. As part of the plan, about 5,500 jobs were to be eliminated through attrition and layoffs.

A unnamed source said the recent promotions are "an attempt to keep some of the key people" at Fleet following the turnover brought on by Fleet Focus and the announcement of the merger.

And it is unclear whether the planned efficiency ratio has been achieved. Fleet is expected to announce the result of the reorganization in its earnings meeting in mid-April, the spokeswoman said.

"We didn't want to wait," Mr. Jones said. "We've been in hiatus for the last 9 to 12 months."

Mr. Jones said that he saw the new appointments as a necessary recognition of the executives in an area of great importance to Fleet.

According to Mr. Jones, more than half of the profits in the investment services unit come from personal financial services.

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