With two swift strokes, Terrence Murray advanced his goal this year of turning his company, Fleet Financial Group, into an investment services powerhouse.
Fleet, long considered an innovator among banks in the investment products business, bolstered that reputation with the acquisitions of Columbia Management Corp. and Quick & Reilly Group.
The back-to-back deals helped satisfy Mr. Murray's long-standing desire to reduce Fleet's reliance for revenue growth on its core banking franchise in New England.
The addition of Oregon-based Columbia boosted Fleet's assets under management to $74 billion. The pending deal for Quick & Reilly-the third- largest discount brokerage house in the United States-would broaden distribution of the Columbia Funds and Fleet's own highly regarded Galaxy Funds.
Just a year ago, Mr. Murray faced criticism from Wall Street that he was failing to generate significant revenue growth. At the time, the $83.6 billion-asset Boston bank was struggling to absorb Shawmut National Corp. and National Westminster Bancorp.
"He was down a touchdown going into half time," said Michael Mayo, an analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston. "He pulled out in the third quarter and has ended up back in the lead."
Mr. Murray's focus on building fee income isn't limited to investment products. Fleet's pending deal for the credit card operations of Spring Hill, Pa.-based Advanta Corp. would make it the nation's ninth-largest card issuer, with $11.5 billion in receivables.
Analysts said the past year's events position Fleet for further expansion into fee businesses and insulate the bank against takeover. "You should never count Murray out of the game," Mr. Mayo said.