Community banks in several midwestern states have been bombarded with resumes and queries from bank lenders worried about the future of their jobs at superregional banks.
The rising tide of insecurity stems from the massive cost-cutting reorganizations that several major midwestern banks, in particular Columbus, Ohio-based Banc One Corp., have been undertaking over the past year.
As a result, growing community banks are finding no shortage of job applicants. On the contrary, they're being flooded, as regional bank lenders and other retail officers seek a sense of stability in their professional lives.
"We have seen a definite uptick in the number of unsolicited resumes coming from Banc One professionals," said Brian Moriarty, senior vice president for human resources at First Financial Bancorp, Hamilton, Ohio. "It's more than doubled."
Mr. Moriarty, however, said he couldn't say how many resumes the company had received.
"We've been contacted quietly by some employees of larger consolidating banks in this area looking for a new opportunity," said Jerry R. Francis, president and chief operating officer of Peoples Bank Corp. of Indianapolis. "It creates a lot of opportunity for community banks."
To cut expenses and boost profits, the regional banks have pruned branch networks and staffing while consolidating far-flung empires.
KeyCorp has been refocusing its branch networks on cities, closing or selling over 280 branches in rural areas.
In Milwaukee, Firstar Corp. completed a 17-month restructuring at the end of June that included layoffs over five or six quarters.
Banc One has just completed a restructuring and consolidation that cut 5,800 jobs and reduced the number of separate bank charters from 88 to just 12, one for each state.
"As they collapse charters, they turn former community banks into branches, and those community bank presidents become branch managers," said Michael L. Cox, president and chief operating officer of First Merchants Bank, Muncie, Ind., where three fourths of recent job applicants have been from Banc One. "Many of them don't have that as their career goals."
Job applicants are unhappy about loss of status and of the responsibility for making lending or other decisions, the community bankers said.
The applicants also worry that they may be forced to move "somewhat quickly and arbitrarily" to other parts of the corporation or country, Mr. Moriarty said.
John A. Russell, spokesman for Banc One, said such a trend would be a concern for the $102 billion-asset company, because "we want to keep every employee that we've got."
"We haven't seen a lot of people leaving," he said, but "it would be shortsighted to think that everybody who was working in a highly decentralized organization" would want to work in the new company.
This year First Financial has hired three midlevel professionals and has had many more applicants. And Johnson International Inc., Racine, Wis., has taken on several former regional bank officers with over 20 years of experience from Firstar and Banc One.
"The number of people who have applied, either by blatantly sending me a resume or by subtly suggesting they might be open to a change, is very large," said Richard A. Hansen, president and chief executive officer of $1.3 billion-asset Johnson International. "We're able to look at some seasoned, talented bankers who are no longer willing to put up with the uncertainty and turmoil."