Hartnack Accepts Challenge As Union Bank Retail Chief

Richard C. Hartnack is used to being on top. As executive vice president in charge of retail banking at First National Bank of Chicago, he has overseen the dominant consumer bank in Illinois.

But early this month, he left that post to become vice chairman and director of retail banking for Union Bank, ranked fifth in California market share. In one of the country's hottest retail banking environments, the $16.8 billion-asset bank competes against such powerhouses as BankAmerica Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co.

California "is a very different game, and I don't go in there with a lot of answers," Mr. Hartnack said in a recent interview. "I'm going into this thing as a fairly experienced retail banking executive, but until I get my feet on the ground, it's hard to say what I'll do."

A Chance to Return to California Roots

Part of the job's appeal for this 45-year-old California native is the opportunity to return home. He will work in the Los Angeles office for San Francisco-based Union Bank, which is 75%-owned by the Bank of Tokyo.

He will also oversee a larger operation. With 178 branches, Union Bank's network is three times as big as First Chicago's.

The clincher, he said, was the chance to work for a bank whose majority owner is Japanese.

"It's a unique opportunity to learn a lot about a different cultural experience," Mr. Hartnack said. "The president and CEO [Taisuke Shimizu] is absolutely committed to running an organization of the highest possible quality for both employees and customers. That kind of commitment to excellence is exciting."

Mr. Hartnack fills a vacancy created by the retirement of James R. Gibson, who helped Union build about 50 branches in Southern California supermarkets. Mr. Gibson was also instrumental in devising progressive policies on community reinvestment and lending to low-income customers, winning praise from neighborhood groups.

"My first charge is to continue what Jim Gibson did and did very well," Mr. Hartnack said. That should not be too difficult for Mr. Hartnack, who won kudos for negotiations with community leaders during his nine years at the lead bank unit of First Chicago Corp.

Mr. Hartnack is the second executive vice president to leave First Chicago in recent months. A.D. Fraizer Jr., manager of First Chicago's $10 billion North American loan portfolio, resigned in April to run the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Jerry Bradshaw, chairman of First Chicago's Gary-Wheaton Bank, has assumed Mr. Hartnack's responsibilities.

Admiration for First Chicago

"When you leave First Chicago, you're always going to miss the people," Mr. Hartnack said. "First Chicago has more raw, intellectual banking talent than any company I've ever seen."

Mr. Hartnack earned his bachelor's degree from the University of California at Los Angeles and served a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps. He then returned to California, received an MBA from Stanford University, and went to work for First Interstate Bancorp, Los Angeles.

"I jog a substantial amount, and jogging in California in January is going to be a little different from doing it in Chicago," Mr. Hartnack said. He plans to settle with his wife and three children in Palos Verde, a short drive from his new office.

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