A respected veteran of U.S. Bancorp who assured state regulators in Oregon that he would personally see that his company's merger with First Bank System of Minneapolis was carried out with limited customer disruption has decided to retire Sept. 1.
John D. Eskildsen, U.S. Bank president in Oregon, said he has decided to retire at age 60 rather than stay with the new $72 billion-asset company. Mr. Eskildsen, who has been with U.S. Bancorp for his entire 38-year banking career, will be succeeded by another company veteran, John H. Rickman, 56.
Shortly after First Bank System of Minneapolis announced it was buying U.S. Bancorp of Portland last March, Oregon's top banking regulator wrote to First Bank and the Federal Reserve expressing concern over the potential disruption the merger could cause.
Cecil R. Monroe, Oregon's administrator of the division of finance and corporate securities, said that only months before, when customers of Wells Fargo & Co. encountered numerous technical and service problems, he received a flood of complaints. Although both Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp are regulated by federal rather than state officials, it was the state office that received the complaints.
"The main problem was customers couldn't get a hold of anyone," said Richard M. Nockleby, who succeeded Mr. Monroe, who retired in June. "What we're trying to do with U.S. Bancorp is get some assurance from them that someone will be here."
Mr. Rickman a 34-year veteran of U.S. Bancorp in Oregon, is executive vice president and manager of corporate banking. On Sept. 1 he'll trade those titles for U.S. Bank president in Oregon.
Mr. Rickman said he's aware of concern among Oregonians who lost their hometown bank in the Aug. 1 acquisition.
"There was a lot of concern that someone would be appointed who did not know the area," he said.
Mr. Eskildsen said the most important role Mr. Rickman will play is as the "designated advocate for the bank." With a conversion of computer systems not scheduled until mid-1998, Mr. Eskildsen said he believes company officials have enough time to iron out any potential problems.
"I can't say it will be 100% perfect," Mr. Eskildsen said, but he added, "Wells was trying to do a lot in a hurry," and that's what led to problems.
His decision to leave, he said, was a case of simply changing his mind. Initially he said he would stay about two years beyond the merger and would retire around the same time as U.S. Bancorp chairman Gerry Cameron, who is expected to retire at the end of 1998. But Mr. Eskildsen, who joined the U.S. Bank executive training program in 1959, said, "It just seems like the right time."
Mr. Eskildsen wouldn't discuss his retirement package, but R. Jay Tejera, an analyst with Dain Bosworth Inc. said the compensation for departing executives is generous.
Mr. Eskildsen said he believes Mr. Rickman will have the credibility to represent the bank. Mr. Rickman is president of the Oregon Bankers Association and has longtime ties to Portland.
Although Mr. Rickman will assume most of Mr. Eskildsen's duties, he will not oversee the 170-branch network in Oregon. That job has been handed to Pete Sinclair, president of U.S. Bank in Idaho.
It's critical to name someone with local ties to the community, Mr. Tejera said. "It adds credibility with the rank-and-file employees," he said.
With the elimination of 2,000 jobs in Oregon alone, U.S. Bancorp wants to minimize business disruptions.
"We fought for so many years to build our market share," Mr. Rickman said, "and we don't want to lose it."