Timothy J. Morris had just reported to work as Bessemer Trust Co.'s chief domestic investment officer on Aug. 28 when some big news hit.
That very day, his former employer, Chemical Banking Corp., announced plans to merge with Chase Manhattan Corp.
The development only reinforced Mr. Morris' reasons for jumping from giant Chemical, which manages $55 billion on behalf of clients, to Bessemer, which manages $9 billion.
"What attracted me to Bessemer was the unique franchise they have in the investment world," Mr. Morris said in a recent interview at the offices of the New York-based trust bank.
"The size of the organization allows you to focus on investments and clients' needs," he declared. "You're not distracted by mergers and other businesses that don't impact your business."
Until Aug. 18, Mr. Morris was president and chief investment officer of Portfolio Group Inc., an investment management subsidiary within Chemical's private banking operation that oversees $11 billion in assets.
Mr. Morris said he was having a good year at Chemical, where he spent seven years, but was eventually cajoled into making the switch this summer, after having been approached by headhunters.
At Bessemer, he replaces Richard Young, who left the company early in the year for a Boston firm.
One month into the job, Mr. Morris finds himself in an environment more akin to a think-tank than a bank.
"There is no bureaucracy," he said. "You simply serve the client and do your investment work.
"A large corporate banking culture just has too many distractions for investment organizations to function effectively," he added. "If you look at the history, investment businesses have had a very stormy marriage with banks."
Although he is responsible for the market strategy and sector weighting behind all domestic investments for Bessemer's 700 clients, Mr. Morris is self-effacing about his role within the private bank.
"I don't bring any silver bullets to the investment process," he said. "Historically, I think it has been a team effort at Bessemer, and I expect that would continue. The investment product is a collaborative effort - it's not the product of a star system."
Bessemer's asset allocation committee meets every morning, and Mr. Morris contributes a macroeconomic perspective to the decision-making process. He works with a research director, six analysts and two portfolio managers who pick the particular investments.
In addition to having a different corporate culture, he says, Bessemer has a more liberal attitude than large banks toward allocation.
Bessemer invests heavily in U.S. equities, including 45% in large-cap stocks, and remains confident in a continued bull market for the rest of the year.
Mr. Morris believes Bessemer's much smaller size than Chemical is no hindrance to overall performance.
"There is a critical mass here that makes it a very viable business long-term," he said. "It's large enough that you can tap the resources you need to run a good investment management business."