Chase Manhattan Corp. and Chemical Banking Corp. could have some big decisions to make when they get around to sorting out how to serve affluent clients after they merge next year.
In recent years, the giant New York banks have gone opposite ways in catering to their well-heeled clients, at least when it comes to private banking.
In an effort to capture the emerging affluent, Chemical has lowered its minimum for entry into private banking to $500,000. Chase, on the other hand, has raised its own to upwards of $3 million, having decided to capture a maximum of 15,000 high-powered global clients.
If indeed Chase's system prevails after the merger, clients with less than the required private banking minimums could be switched to Chase's financial strategies group, which handles clients with at least $500,000 in investable assets.
On the other hand, if Chemical's system wins over Chase's, the new bank could benefit from one of the best referral programs in the country: Any employee outside the private bank who successfully refers a client to the private bank pockets 10% of the first year's estimated annual revenues generated by the account.
And though it may be premature to speculate about who will ultimately lead the overall investment efforts at the new Chase, it looks like the old Chase may have an early upper hand - in private banking leadership, at least.
According to the two banks' announcement on Monday, Chase's current head of private banking, James W. Zeigon will stay on as executive vice president of global asset management and private banking at the new Chase. He was one of 20 executives - and only one of nine from Chase - named immediately to the combined banks' top management team.
Mr. Zeigon is a 19-year Chase veteran and a visionary who has single- handedly pushed the globalization of the private bank and the streamlining of its operations.
That leaves the question of the place, if any, the new organization will have for Chemical's current private banking chief, John T. Fogarty.
A former U.S. Tennis Association president and a well-liked executive who was appointed to his current position in 1989, Mr. Fogarty is known in the industry as a savvy, well-connected executive.
"It is clear both banks have a lot of talent on board," said David Ross Palmer, a New-York-based private banking consultant. "The question is, What are they going to do with it?"