Magazine article American Banker

Chairman Who Built Signet into a Direct-Mail Pioneer Will Retire in Year at Age 55

Magazine article American Banker

Chairman Who Built Signet into a Direct-Mail Pioneer Will Retire in Year at Age 55

Article excerpt

In a surprising step, Signet Banking Corp. chairman and CEO Robert M. Freeman said he will retire at the end of next year - at the relatively young age of 55.

Mr. Freeman had guided Signet's transition from an also-ran corporate bank into a pioneer in the use of direct-mail marketing to consumers. Although that transition is still incomplete, he said Tuesday, he wished to retire "at an age when I can enjoy other interests."

Analysts who follow the company expressed confidence the move does not portend any major strategic shifts at the Richmond-based bank. "By and large, Bob has let everyone else run the show" at Signet, said PaineWebber Inc.'s Thomas D. McCandless. "He's just guided them in the right direction."

Mr. Freeman is scheduled to hand over his CEO reins next April to president and chief operating officer Malcolm S. McDonald who, at age 57, is three years older than Mr. Freeman. Mr. McDonald joined Signet in 1970.

Other members of the management team moving up in Mr. Freeman's wake are senior executive vice president T. Gaylon Layfield 3d, to vice chairman and chief operating officer, and chief financial officer Wallace B. Millner 3d, to vice chairman. Both will be elected to Signet's board next year.

Mr. McDonald and Mr. Layfield, who will replace Mr. McDonald as president, have both been closely associated with Signet's use of information-based technology, first in credit cards and now in consumer and corporate lending.

"What the board was saying was that they supported the initiatives that Mr. …

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