March 8, 2009 in Business

JPMorgan is banking on Campbell’s local ties

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Old National Bank was folded into U.S. Bank 20 years ago, but its former management team continues to accrue interest.

Witness the pending ascension of Phyllis Campbell to the chairmanship of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Pacific Northwest. She becomes the fourth ONB executive now heading a Northwest bank. The others are Pat Fahey, chairman and chief executive officer of Frontier Financial Corp. in Everett; D. Michael Jones, president and CEO of Banner Bank in Walla Walla; and Harold Gilkey, chairman and CEO of Sterling Financial Corp. in Spokane.

Campbell started her banking career at ONB in 1973, and remained there through its 1988 acquisition by U.S. Bank, where she soon became president of its Washington operations. She stepped down in 2001, and in 2003 moved to The Seattle Foundation as president.

That’s where JPMorgan Chase found her.

“When I saw (the announcement), I thought, ‘Wow, somebody really did their homework,’ ” said Dave Clack, who was chairman at ONB when Campbell started there.

Putting her in charge shows the importance New York-based JPMorgan, the nation’s second-largest bank, places on its Northwest presence, he said.

Campbell, a graduate of Marycliff High School in Spokane and Washington State University, will preside over the relabeling and revitalization of Washington Mutual Bank operations in Washington, Idaho and Oregon. WaMu became a colossus under Chairman Kerry Killinger – also a former Spokane banker – but adopted some of the worst mortgage lending practices in the industry, and paid the price.

JPMorgan Chase purchased the franchise in September, but had done little since then to change the face of its branches, or its leadership.

Apparently, the bank was doing that homework, and convincing Campbell there was banking in her future as well as her past.

“I was not looking for this job. It came looking for me,” Campbell said last week.

She said the opportunity to establish JPMorgan as a vital institution sensitive to the Northwest’s unique culture convinced her to make the move, as did the chance to work with JPMorgan Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon.

“I’ve followed his career for many years,” Campbell said.

Dimon said JPMorgan headhunters called a lot of people as it looked for new Northwest leadership. He called people himself, looking for the names of those who knew the region, its businesses, its charitable organizations and its governments.

“Her name was on top of that list,” he said. “She can do a lot of great things.”

That Campbell was a banker was a bonus, he said. “She knows the business.”

Dimon said Campbell was brought to New York City so she could meet JPMorgan officials and talk about a vision for the bank in the Northwest.

“We want to build a great company,” he said.

Jones, Gilkey, and Fahey joined Clack in saying that putting Campbell at the helm will do much to reassure employees and the broader Seattle community that JPMorgan values what WaMu was in its heyday as a Northwest bank. She will be good for the bank, they say, and for the banking industry in the region.

“It pulls everything back together,” Clack said.

Campbell worked for Gilkey when he was an ONB executive.

“Phyllis is a good friend and she has always been a good competitor,” he said. “I really believe banks are better when they have good competition.”

As chairman of the Inland Northwest Community Foundation, Gilkey said he also worked with Campbell on common philanthropic initiatives.

At JPMorgan, he said, Campbell will be a plus for the bank and region.

Banner Bank President D. Michael Jones said WaMu was a good corporate citizen. Campbell has already seen to it that JPMorgan will maintain that tradition by engineering a commitment for nearly $2.7 million in grants to nonprofit organizations in 2009, and a five-year, $10 million grant to the Seattle Art Museum.

“To get her from the Seattle Foundation was a nice compliment,” Jones said. “She’s a voice Seattle can respect.”

Fahey was president of ONB when Campbell was an area manager. Her star quality was already apparent, he said.

Campbell effectively represented Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank in the region, he said, and she will do the same for JPMorgan.

“I don’t think they could have found a better choice.”

The old hands at ONB ought to know.

Contact Bert Caldwell at (509) 459-5450 or bertc@spokesman.com.

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