Fleet Financial Group Inc. has again looked to Household International Inc. as it bolsters the senior management of its newly enlarged credit card division.
Joseph W. Saunders, hired away from Household late last year to be chairman and chief executive officer of Fleet Credit Card Services, has brought in three people from his old shop over the last month. This was part of the restructuring following Boston-based Fleet's February acquisition of Advanta Corp.'s credit card business.
Topping the recruitment list is Warren S. Wilcox Jr., head of strategic planning at the credit card division based in Horsham, Pa. Also making the jump from Household is Susan Gleason, who will run operations, technology, and customer service, and Patrick Coll, who will head marketing.
"The overall priority is to make sure we have an infrastructure that can take us to the next level," said Mr. Saunders.
But to get there, Mr. Saunders said, Fleet will need to focus on efficient processing and to develop an ability to tailor products to individuals.
"The whole focus of this business is finding different distribution channels where you can get down to individuals and give them what they want," Mr. Saunders said.
Mr. Wilcox "brings a unique skill set" to the task, said Robert K. Hammer, president and chief executive officer of R.K. Hammer Investment Bankers, Thousand Oaks, Calif. He has not only "the marketing prowess, but also the risk management experience. In this business, we tend to be on one side or the other. It's a rare breed that can bring both."
Other members of Mr. Saunders' senior team are John Bray, who had been controller of Fleet's card and mortgage servicing businesses; and Ron Mittendorf, the risk management officer who worked in Fleet's consumer lending business since 1995 after 21 years with Citibank.
Jim Tylenda, another holdover, remains to focus on "marketing within the Fleet franchise," Mr. Saunders wrote in a memo.
But the changes will surely leave a Household imprint on the combined Fleet-Advanta portfolios, said James Shanahan of Business Dynamics Consulting Inc., Nyack, N.Y.
"It's almost like a three-way merger," Mr. Shanahan said. "When you bring in four people at the top, they define the values of the company."
Mr. Saunders and Mr. Wilcox, who are longtime associates, got to know Advanta in the 1980s when they purchased a $1 billion portfolio from the company.
The two men, while at Household, made their biggest mark as the force behind the General Motors Corp. cobranded card, which is largely responsible for the credit card company's ranking among the top 10 bank card issuers.
Fleet's purchase of Advanta immediately put Fleet among the top 10 issuers as well. Before the sale, Fleet ranked 25th with $2.7 billion of receivables at yearend 1997; that number has since grown to about $14 billion, according to the Nilson Report.
Mr. Saunders "will have a big challenge in front of him," Mr. Shanahan said. A competitive market with interest rates in the 6% to 8% range "is going to cause enormous strains to achieve the double-digit growth rates that management has come to expect."