U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray Asset Management Inc.’s new chief investment officer says the merger integration work on his plate is just some “fine-tuning,” but several observers say the hiring of Mark Jordahl indicates that the project is closer to engine overhaul.

Mr. Jordahl, who begins his new job at the U.S. Bancorp subsidiary today, is no stranger to this type of work. At his previous employer, ING Investments’ ING Americas in Atlanta, he was in charge of integrating ReliaStar’s numerous asset management pieces into ING’s operations (he had come to ING by way of its Dutch parent company’s acquisition of ReliaStar).

Every big financial services company that builds through acquisition runs into integration snags. Citigroup Inc., for one, has had to unite asset management units from five companies, and FleetBoston Financial Corp. is still absorbing the units from its Summit Bancorp acquisition while unifying other parts.

U.S. Bancorp - a $160 billion-asset banking company with $113 billion in assets under management — has been no exception.

The Minneapolis company merged with rival Firstar Corp. of Milwaukee on Feb. 27. At the time of the merger, Firstar had not yet integrated the many asset management units that it had taken on through a series of previous acquisitions.

Mr. Jordahl, who succeeded Paul Dow, said much of the heavy lifting has already been done.

“I am here because some fine-tuning is needed,” he said in an interview last week. “We are not looking at making revolutionary changes.” These smaller tasks include deciding which products to offer, he said.

The most notable accomplishment to date, Mr. Jordahl said, was creating First American funds out of Firstar Investment Research and Management Co. and the old U.S. Bancorp’s First American Asset Management. In May three other units were branded and pulled into the unit: U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray Private Advisory Services, which manages the wealth of high-net-worth clients, and two research arms.

Mr. Jordahl’s chief aim is to play up existing strengths, which he sees as the professional talent in the several groups, and the 10 million customers served by his company’s 2,200 branches in 24 states.

“We want to bring the best investment management talent we have through the company into this group, and give them access to the entire bank as a distribution channel,” he said.

Now, he said, it’s just a matter of waiting, and fixing any problems that might arise.

But Burton Greenwald, an asset management consultant in Philadelphia, and several other analysts take Mr. Jordahl’s hiring as a sign that there is plenty of work do in finishing the asset management units’ integration.

Jon G. Arfstrom, who covers U.S. Bancorp for Dain Rauscher Wessels, said, “Mr. Jordahl is going to have to find a way to push all these firms together gently, without losing assets or talent.”

Mr. Jordahl has already been put in charge of two sizable initiatives — leading the unit’s new invesment council in its effort to reset investment strategy and improving distribution through bank channels.


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