Michael Hegarty, the former Chase Manhattan Corp. vice chairman who resigned last month in a management shake-up, has been named chief operating officer of Equitable Cos., effective Jan. 19.

Mr. Hegarty, 53, who will also serve as president and chief operating officer of Equitable Life Assurance Society of the U.S., follows his longtime mentor, Edward D. Miller, to the insurance company. Mr. Miller was named president and chief executive officer of Equitable Cos. and its main unit five months ago.

Mr. Miller, 57, was a senior vice chairman at Chase. He and Mr. Hegarty began their banking careers at Manufacturers Hanover Corp., a Chase predecessor.

The insurer said Monday that Mr. Miller would become chairman of Equitable Life, succeeding Joseph J. Melone, 66, who said he would retire in April. Mr. Miller will continue to be president and CEO of the holding group and CEO of Equitable Life.

At Chase, Mr. Hegarty was responsible for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut branch banking and electronic banking initiatives.

Consultants described Mr. Hegarty as a creative manager, and predicted he would need that creativity to handle the tough challenges ahead at the life insurer.

"Banks have already dealt with issues like alternative distribution, profit analysis, and relationship building," said Charles Wendel, a consultant at Financial Institutions Consulting. "Many insurers have yet to do that."

Mr. Hegarty will succeed William T. McCaffrey, 61, as chief operating officer of Equitable Life. Mr. McCaffrey, also an executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Equitable Cos., said he would retire in February.

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