The aggressive job cutting that started late last year at KeyCorp could reach into senior management, including some of the Cleveland company's top 25 executives, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Such high-level changes have been mentioned before, but the likelihood of their happening now is considered greater because KeyCorp is undergoing its most extensive restructuring. Examples of upper-level changes are said to include the elimination of some jobs that involve overseeing certain business lines and regions.

Some also suggest those cuts could extend to chairman and chief executive officer Robert W. Gillespie. (The restructuring is being managed by president and chief operating officer Henry L. Meyer 3d.) People familiar with the situation said Mr. Gillespie's contract expires May 31, 2001, and the intensity in shareholder pressure for a change in the direction of the company has been escalating.

A KeyCorp spokesman declined to discuss the matter Tuesday and said the company would not talk about the results of its overhaul plan until later this month.

Along with the scope of cuts and the status of the restructuring, KeyCorp is also expected to announce this month that there will be a heightened level of management accountability throughout the company. Specifically, KeyCorp plans to slash its use of consultants, cutting spending in that area from $10 million annually to $1 million.

Analysts say KeyCorp has undergone restructuring efforts before, but with little positive result. This reengineering, however, has a different tone, analysts said. "They have announced other programs before to cut costs, but you've never seen any cost structure improvement come out of them," said Lori Appelbaum, an analyst with Goldman Sachs & Co. "When I look at their efficiency ratio it just hasn't improved.

But this time, she said, the restructuring "just seems a little more serious."

The moves KeyCorp has outlined publicly - including the elimination of roughly 4,000 jobs, exits from certain businesses, and selling off some assets - implies longer-term structural implications for the company.

Some believe KeyCorp will emerge from the changes with a stronger bottom line.

Thomas McCandless and Peter J. Winter, analysts with CIBC World Markets upped their rating of KeyCorp's stock from "hold" to "strong buy."

KeyCorp's revamp "will look at every line of business," Mr. Winter said. "Instead of doing it from the top down, the reengineering is from the bottom up. They got input from all their employees and came up with 8,000 ideas about how to improve the company."

KeyCorp also assigned eight of its top executives and called in 40 senior-level managers who have left their business lines to come to Cleveland to focus on the reengineering, Mr. Winter said.

When all its efforts are complete, 18 months from now, KeyCorp should realize a one-time pretax gain of 20 to 35 cents per share, he said.

CIBC's positive outlook stems in part from KeyCorp's enlisting the help in April of EHS Partners, a Los Angeles consulting firm whose partners helped such companies as Comerica Inc. and Unionbancal Corp. through successful restructuring plans, Mr. Winter said.

After an August 1999 restructuring, Unionbancal's efficiency ratio improved from 62.5% in the second quarter of 1999 to 51.8% in the comparable 2000 period.

Comerica enlisted the same consultants, who at the time were with Tandon, in 1996 and 1997 to help with massive changes. Comerica achieved a pretax earnings gain of $110 million, Mr. Winter said.


Related Content Online:

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.