Magazine article American Banker

BancWest CEO Says Top Execs Set Tone When Banks Merge

Magazine article American Banker

BancWest CEO Says Top Execs Set Tone When Banks Merge

Article excerpt

The example set by top brass is crucial to making a merger work, says Walter A. Dods Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of BancWest Corp.

Good will between top executives of merging banks tends to trickle down through the company, Mr. Dods said.

He should know. Last November, Mr. Dods' First Hawaiian Inc. combined with San Francisco-based Bank of the West.

"So far, the nonfinancial part of this merger is going far better than expected," he added.

The deal has succeeded to this point, he said, because of the affinity that he and BancWest president and chief operating officer Don J. McGrath have developed. That relationship has made employees of the two former institutions feel confident and secure, Mr. Dods said.

Conversely, the staff of a merged bank can suffer from friction between top executives, Mr. Dods said. NationsBank Corp.'s acquisition of BankAmerica Corp. is a case in point, he added. When the merger was announced last year, NationsBank chief executive Hugh L. McColl Jr. was to run the institution initially, and BankAmerica CEO David A. Coulter would take over after Mr. McColl retired.

But just weeks following the deal's close last fall, Mr. Coulter was forced out.

"If the rank and file know that Hugh McColl and David Coulter are having problems, it filters right through the whole damn organization, and you can't keep it out of there," Mr. Dods said.

Mr. Dods insists that he and Mr. McGrath, who was chief executive of Bank of the West before the merger, have hit it off both professionally and personally.

"The two of us guys have gotten along really well, and if the rank and file know that, you have a chance of making this whole thing work," Mr. Dods said.

Naturally, Mr. Dods would be unlikely to admit any animosity or any problems cropping up in the merger. But outside observers said his story is a believable one. …

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