In turning to James Dimon as its next leader, Bank One Corp. appears to have charted a course for substantial change, not the least of which would be a makeover of its senior management.
On Monday the $265 billion-asset Chicago banking company ended its three-month search for a new chief executive, naming Mr. Dimon, the 44-year-old former Citigroup Inc. president, to the post.
In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Dimon said he was busy meeting managers and employees on the "breakfast-lunch-and-dinner circuit," but much of his time in the last 48 hours has been fielding congratulatory calls from former Citigroup colleagues, along with one from his former boss, Sanford I. Weill. "I must have 100 calls from friends over there," Mr. Dimon said.
Analysts said Citigroup may well be one of the places Mr. Dimon tries to recruit help. "As a new CEO, you probably want to be surrounded by people you've worked with in the past," said Katrina Blecher, an analyst at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.
Verne G. Istock, who had been acting chief executive during the search, was relegated to a largely undefined role as president and member of the company's board of directors. The 12 senior executives who reported to Mr. Istock immediately began reporting to Mr. Dimon, as did Mr. Istock himself. The two executives said at a press conference Monday that they and the board had agreed on the structure and that the two would work closely together over the next few months.
Mr. Istock, 59, has been an executive at Bank One and its predecessor companies for over 20 years. Mr. Dimon denied any reluctance on his part or Mr. Istock's to work together.
"He's been great," Mr. Dimon said.
He said he would turn most of his early attention to employees. Acknowledging that the employee ranks have suffered from lingering divisiveness since Bank One's 1998 merger with First Chicago NBD Corp., Mr. Dimon said the first order of business would be "talking to employees and walking in their moccasins and getting them to walk in each others' moccasins."
Even so, market watchers predicted one more round of high-level departures lay ahead. "The current senior management is not likely to be what we have six months from now," said Lori Appelbaum, an analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co.
In communications to employees Monday, Mr. Dimon was already trying to generate enthusiasm. "I know you have been through some difficult times," he wrote in an e-mail memorandum to Bank One's 92,000 employees. "Our franchise is solid, our businesses are sound. Together we can make Bank One one of America's premier financial institutions."
Employees said the appointment had a calming effect after months of successive profit warnings and key executive departures, including the Christmas-week resignation of John B. McCoy, whose family ran the old Bank One of Columbus, Ohio, for 64 years.
"We were very encouraged," a spokesman said of the CEO announcement. "Everyone wanted to move on."
Mr. Dimon said in the interview he would begin closely examining Bank One's most troubled operations - namely, the Wilmington, Del.-based credit card unit First USA Inc. - and would "act with all sense of urgency" to fix revenue growth problems.
Retail banking and finance, in addition to credit cards, are seen as Bank One's most troubled areas, analysts said.
Analysts said Mr. Dimon's presence at the helm of the bank bodes well. Mr. Istock, though a respected banker, nonetheless "represents the old guard," one analyst said. Mr. Dimon, with a career that included stints in consumer finance, retail and institutional brokerage, and insurance, "will move Bank One into the 21st century."