M&I's CFO Hire Stands as a Contrast

By Mazzucca, Tim | American Banker, May 11, 2006 | Go to article overview

M&I's CFO Hire Stands as a Contrast


Mazzucca, Tim, American Banker


How did Marshall & Ilsley Corp. manage to accomplish in a quick six weeks something that its competitors seem to need much more time to do?

On Monday the $47.3 billion-asset Milwaukee company said it had reached into the investment banking world to fill the job currently being done by its interim chief financial officer.

Gregory A. Smith, 42, will join M&I next month. He was a Credit Suisse Group managing director, specializing in Midwest financial institutions, and a longtime adviser to M&I.

"Frankly, we are a bit surprised at the rapidity with which M&I has been able to fill two important positions," Anthony R. Davis, an analyst at BankAtlantic Bancorp Inc.'s Ryan Beck & Co. Inc., wrote in a research note issued Monday.

The quick turnaround in filling the CFO job, as well as the treasurer job in March, "speaks volumes about M&I's reputation, market presence, and fundamental prospects," Mr. Davis wrote.

Gordon Grand 3d, who heads the global financial officers practice at Russell Reynolds Associates Inc. in New York, said in an interview Monday that finding a CFO is difficult for a big banking company, because consolidation has reduced the candidate pool.

M&I's search was roughly six months faster than that of Fifth Third Bancorp in Cleveland, which on April 20 named Christopher G. Marshall, a Bank of America Corp. executive, its CFO after a search that began in September.

"The problem is the shrinkage in the number of the actual banks you can go to for a sitting CFO," Mr. Grand said. "You can cover them pretty quickly, and often it's hard to find incentives to offer to make them make the switch."

When asked if he had turned to the investment banking world because of a lack of candidates in the commercial sector, M&I president and acting CFO Mark F. Furlong said that Mr. Smith was the right man for the job and a known entity. During his tenure at Credit Suisse he had advised M&I executives since 1990 on a variety of matters, including raising capital and corporate strategy.

"What we needed was someone with superior finance skills," but Mr. Smith also has "great chemistry with the senior management team," Mr. Furlong said.

In naming Mr. Marshall as its new CFO, the $105 billion-asset Fifth Third cited his range of experience as an important factor. Mr. Marshall most recently was an executive in B of A's global consumer and small-business unit, but had been the Charlotte company's CFO for technology and operations. Earlier he had been the CFO for global business services at Honeywell International.

Thomas Daniels, a consultant with the New York executive search firm Spencer Stuart, said that in general, hiring a CFO can take a long time, because potential candidates tend to take a long time making a decision. …

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M&I's CFO Hire Stands as a Contrast
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