A veteran NationsBank Corp. executive who spent much of his career consolidating the acquisitive bank's trust and private banking operations is retiring.
James B. Sommers, 58, is leaving the Charlotte, N.C., banking company after 32 years to pursue a life of leisure, learning, and lending his time to his community. His last day will be May 31.
Mr. Sommers held a variety of responsibilities during his tenure and saw many incarnations of the $239 billion-asset company. His current post is corporate executive vice president in charge of strategic planning of retail banking. Before that, he had spent 10 years running NationsBank's trust and private banking businesses.
"When I came here, we were a little regional bank in North Carolina with a picture of a pickup truck on the cover of our annual report," Mr. Sommers said in a telephone interview. "Now we're a major player in many lines of business all over the world."
Mr. Sommers was a witness to industry innovations that today are taken for granted, and his name is attached to a couple of firsts at NationsBank.
He was its first summer intern during breaks from his master's degree studies in business administration at the University of Virginia, he said. He also helped set up one of the first "cash dispensing machines" at NationsBank.
Mr. Sommers will spend the first few months of his retirement without a set schedule, he said. He plans to continue serving on boards of directors in his community and will expand his involvement at a community college where he is a trustee. A trip to England is in the works, Mr. Sommers said, and he is considering studying Thomas Jefferson, a fellow Virginian, at Oxford University.
Mr. Sommers moved to the retail side of the bank's operations in September after NationsBank bought Boatmen's Bancshares and relocated the merged banks' trust operations to Boatmen's St. Louis base. He said some of his most rewarding work came from mergers and acquisitions.
"Taking a bunch of small, low-energy, typical old-line trust groups and pulling them together to become a worldwide asset manager to the level of expertise that can go toe-to-toe with anyone around the world is what I enjoyed the most," he said.
Mr. Sommers is a director of some NationsBank subsidiaries and affiliated companies, including NationsSecurities, Sovran Capital Management, ASB Capital Management, Trade Street Investment Associates, NationsBanc Advisors, and Gartmore Global Partners.
Achievements include his work as founding chairman of the Carolinas Council of World Affairs and the private banking unit of the trust and investment division of the American Bankers Association.
The lifelong banker had some parting advice for his colleagues at NationsBank: "Increase dividends, and keep the share price up."