if his job could be on the line.
"Any CEO is always in danger of losing his job," Mr. McCoy acknowledged in a telephone interview.
The day before, as Bank One reported a 12% decline in quarterly earnings, he and president Verne G. Istock announced a reshuffling of their assignments, which put the onus on Mr. McCoy to reverse the fortunes of the First USA credit card subsidiary. First USA chairman Richard W. Vague resigned and was replaced by Bank One senior executive vice president William Boardman, who reports to Mr. McCoy.
Now chairman and CEO instead of president and CEO, Mr. McCoy expressed faith in First USA and credit cards.
Promising more details on strategy at an analysts meeting planned for November, Mr. McCoy stated, "We are absolutely not going to sell First USA. We still want to expand."
He added that First USA, which includes the high-profile WingspanBank.com Internet venture in which Mr. McCoy has taken a personal interest, "is absolutely critical to the strategic direction of the company. There are some operating issues, and we want to correct those," including a customer-retention problem.
The management shakeup came on top of the previously announced departures of vice chairmen David Vitale and Richard Lehmann.
The responsibilities of those executives were divided between Mr. McCoy -- he oversees the card business plus many corporate staff functions -- and Mr. Istock, who traded the chairman's title for president and took on more operational responsibilities than he had before.
Mr. McCoy said that it is appropriate to streamline the top management in the wake of the merger with First Chicago NBD Corp. last year. The organization is "not as complex as it once was," he said. "I don't see any need for us to be running around to fill vice chairman positions."
But analyst James Bradshaw of Pacific Crest Securities in Portland, Ore., said, "We'd like to see some more direction about who the next tier of management is -- the lieutenant-level positions."
Mr. McCoy, 56, dismissed succession questions, such as whether Mr. Istock, 59, formerly of First Chicago NBD, might be next in line.
"Who is likely to succeed at Citibank? At Chase?" Mr. McCoy asked. "When we did this merger, I was appointed to be chief executive, and I expect to be here until I'm 65. My guess is that (potential) successors are in their 40s or 50s right now."
Analysts read the Tuesday announcement as a further indication that the Bank One board was serious about an improvement in performance. The future of Mr. McCoy, who has staked his reputation on the bank's Internet and national lending strategies, could be in question if the cure proves more difficult than expected.
"Everyone who runs a bank that disappoints investors is on notice," said Michael Ancell, analyst at Edward Jones in St. Louis.
At the same time, the banking company is sending clear signals that it wants a senior executive to focus on the key lines of business, such as retail and commercial banking, which have been assigned to Mr. Istock. "The board is saying that we want an executive to be in charge of these business lines who can spend time on them," Mr. Ancell said.