KeyCorp said Tuesday it has hired James E. Bennett, a 30-year McKinsey & Co. veteran, to be senior executive vice president for marketing and strategic management, effective May 1.

The hire will fill a position left vacant by chief marketing officer Stephen A. Cone, who left KeyCorp in January to become president of customer development and marketing for Boston-based Fidelity Investments Inc.

However, Mr. Bennett, 55, has been given a higher rank at KeyCorp and will have more responsibility for strategic planning than Mr. Cone did. At his departure, Mr. Cone was an executive vice president.

Mr. Bennett will be in charge of corporate marketing, product development, strategic planning, and corporate communications. He will report to KeyCorp chairman Robert W. Gillespie and will become the 11th member of the company's management committee.

In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Bennett said Cleveland-based KeyCorp's biggest challenge is to keep up with its rivals in banking and financial services.

"The competitors are getting better and better ... at a faster rate," he said. "The principal challenge is not one of keeping pace, but to accelerate."

Mr. Bennett worked in McKinsey's Cleveland office for all but 13 years of his career. From 1969 to 1982 he was in the consulting firm's Toronto location, serving for the last five years of his tenure there as McKinsey's managing director of Canada operations.

From 1982 to 1993 he was managing director of the Cleveland office.

Mr. Bennett said he is very familiar with KeyCorp, having worked "most of the 1990s" with the company consulting on overall corporate direction and revenue growth.

In fact, Mr. Bennett said he has known Mr. Gillespie for several years. Mr. Gillespie personally recruited Mr. Bennett for this job, first approaching him over drinks in mid-February.

Mr. Gillespie said Mr. Bennett's "analytical skills, leadership, and foresight in forging innovative and successful corporate and line-of- business marketing strategies make him ideally suited for KeyCorp."

During his three and a half years at KeyCorp, Mr. Cone introduced several flashy marketing campaigns and did a good job of getting attention for the $74 billion-asset company. But analysts view the hiring of Mr. Bennett as an attempt by KeyCorp to become more conservative.

"I think the company is at a point now (where) they're looking for someone less flamboyant," said Frank Barkocy, an analyst with Josepthal & Co.

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