Magazine article American Banker

FleetBoston Sets Up 'Catalyst' Unit to Aid Web Business Lines

Magazine article American Banker

FleetBoston Sets Up 'Catalyst' Unit to Aid Web Business Lines

Article excerpt

FleetBoston Financial Corp. has taken a stand in the debate over how financial institutions should manage the Internet by establishing a group that will rely heavily on the company's business units to formulate strategy.

Leading the new Internet Strategy Group is Brian Moynihan, 40, who is to keep the titles executive vice president and chief of corporate strategy. Blaise Heltai, who had consumer and small-business Internet responsibilities, becomes managing director of the group.

The team will aim to "jump-start the quality of our corporate planning around the Internet," Mr. Moynihan said, beginning with a review of all its business units' Web activities, to be completed by May.

"We felt the core challenge facing the company presented by the Internet should be handled by the lines of business," Mr. Moynihan said.

The approach of $190-billion asset FleetBoston differs from that of other big banking companies, like Chase Manhattan Corp. and Citigroup Inc., which have created, in the form of Chase.com and e-Citi, separate operating units to manage the Internet. These units are designed to emulate the entrepreneurial approach of dot-com companies.

Mr. Moynihan said he views Fleet's approach as more akin to that of Wells Fargo & Co. and GE Capital. "Wells has an Internet group in each major function," he said. Recently, the San Francisco banking company promoted three executives, who will focus exclusively on Internet activities, to head business units.

FleetBoston "seriously considered" combining all Internet activities into a separate operating unit on the model of Chase and Citi, said Chad Gifford, president and chief operating officer, in a statement. "We concluded that the challenges and opportunities of e-commerce were so fundamental to the future of our various businesses" that responsibility belongs there. …

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