Marc J. Shapiro, who was tapped Tuesday as Chase Manhattan Corp.'s newest vice chairman, is trading one huge challenge for another.

As chairman and chief executive officer of Texas Commerce Bank, Mr. Shapiro, 50, was widely credited with engineering a dramatic turnaround. Chase's recent merger partner, Chemical Banking Corp., bought the Texas bank in 1987 just as the bottom was dropping out of the state's economy.

Now Mr. Shapiro will take on the task of wringing more efficiencies from the balance sheet of the nation's largest banking company. Friends and former colleagues say they expect him to approach his new role as overseer of credit and risk policy with a trademark blend of financial savvy and people skills.

"He's a first-rate manager," said William Ruckelshaus, chairman of Houston-based Browning-Ferris Industries. "He knows how to train people and how to motivate them. He asks the hard questions."

Mr. Ruckelshaus, a former Nixon and Reagan administration official, has known Mr. Shapiro for about a decade, and the two have served on one another's boards of directors.

He and others described Mr. Shapiro as "brilliant," "intellectual," and a clear contender to succeed Chase chairman Walter V. Shipley.

At Chase, Mr. Shapiro will combine the duties of chief financial officer, chief credit policy officer, and chief risk manager. In a telephone interview Wednesday, he said improving efficiency and raising shareholder value are high on his agenda.

"I'm not sure that there's a recognition (in the market) of how strong the (Chase) franchise is," Mr. Shapiro said. "There is still room for growth. We have to change perceptions that there is not."

Observers said it is a job he has been training for throughout his career. "The nature of these responsibilities is very familiar to him," said James J. McDermott, president of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc.

But Mr. Shapiro's task will not be easy, particularly because he will take on a far more sprawling enterprise than the $20 billion-asset Texas Commerce Bank, observers said.

"Chase is in a large number of businesses globally, and pulling together the risk systems that manage them is a key challenge," said Mr. McDermott.

Mr. Shapiro joined Texas Commerce in 1972 as a financial analyst. Five years later, at 29, he was appointed chief financial officer. He assumed the top job at the bank in 1989.

Observers said Mr. Shapiro had been reluctant to uproot his family. He has a wife, Jeri, and two adult children. Now he'll make the move in September.

Mr. Shapiro, a Houston native who calls himself a "hometown boy," returned in 1972 after earning an economics degree from Harvard University and an MBA from Stanford University. He acknowledges that leaving the city and the bank where he built his career is a bittersweet prospect.

"I've been here for 25 years with a group of people who've been together for most of that time. We've all grown very close."

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