James D. Dixon may be the industry's first high-ranking executive to have dot-com built into his title.
The naming of Mr. Dixon, a veteran Bank of America technology official, to the post of "Bank-ofAmerica.com executive" last week is the latest example of a big bank's reorganizing by granting broad Internet powers to top executives. Though probably the first to be branded by the Internet's signature suffix, Mr. Dixon is far from alone in being assigned a job that focuses exclusively on orchestrating a bank's Internet activities.
The industry's struggle to quickly exploit Internet opportunities has resulted in the creation of FleetBoston Financial Corp.'s Internet strategy group last month and Wells Fargo & Co.'s recent posting of three senior executives to dedicated Internet-strategy jobs. These efforts follow Chase Manhattan Bank's creation of Chase.com and Citigroup Inc.'s launching of e-Citi.
At Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America Corp., Mr. Dixon, 56, is to be the point man through whom all due diligence for Internet business development is funneled. Previously, various executives signed off on Internet business plans.
Mr. Dixon, who has headed technology and operations at Bank of America and its predecessor, NationsBank, since 1992, said his main duties will include forging alliances and ventures with Internet companies.
As the former chief financial officer of C&S Sovran Bank, a predecessor to NationsBank, Mr. Dixon said he can recognize both good Internet technology and a financially attractive deal.
"I have been given the opportunity to keep my ear close to the ground and stay aligned with our businesses and see what capabilities they need," he said.
He already has steered Bank of America into offering financial services through wireless devices in an agreement with Toronto-based 724 Solutions Inc., a developer of wireless banking applications. Besides working with 724 to bring wireless banking to its customers, Bank of America invested an undisclosed amount for a 9% equity stake in the company. Mr. Dixon is a member of 724's board of directors.
Mr. Dixon will report directly to Kenneth D. Lewis, president and chief operating officer of Bank of America. In a statement, Mr. Lewis indicated that Bank of America would not stray far from its current Internet strategy.
"We're not setting out to build a separate, stand-alone electronic channel," Mr. Lewis said.
Mr. Dixon said the Internet would be integrated with other banking channels, including the telephone, branches, and automated teller machines.
"What this channel does, along with the telephone channel, is give our customers the opportunity - and then us the opportunity - to have content-rich interactions in the space they prefer," Mr. Dixon said. Bank of America will strive to "meet the customer where they want to be met," he added. "I think it is an opportunity to improve retention."
Cary Serif, lead partner for electronic commerce and financial services at Arthur Andersen, called Mr. Dixon's appointment a good move. "It says to me that financial institutions are starting to get much more serious about the Internet, and how they integrate it into their businesses," he said. "Banks need to create some new business models as opposed to recasting their existing banking products."
In a global survey of 200 clients, Arthur Andersen recently found that the majority are not positioned for success. A lack of automation of fulfillment and other applications are resulting in low levels of Internet service, Mr. Serif said.
Carl Faulkner, an analyst at M One Corp., a Phoenix-based bank consulting company, said Bank of America needs the boost Mr. Dixon would provide. Despite having two million on-line customers, Bank of America's Internet offering "is pretty weak," he said.
Tim Arnoult has succeeded Mr. Dixon as head of technology and operations. Mr. Arnoult has led the bank's consumer and commercial operations in the central region for the last four years.