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Lessons from Chemical/Chase: the birth of global banking

The merger, 20 years ago, of Chemical and Chase ushered in the era of global banking. It was driven by competition from growing regional competitors, the threat of disintermediation, technological challenges, capital constraints, the desire to serve clients more efficiently and, above all, the need to boost returns to shareholders and unlock value. Those challenges sound all too familiar today. So why aren’t more banks looking at consolidation as a way to beat the post-financial crisis blues?

by John Anderson


When Chase chairman Tom Labrecque (L) was first sounded out in 1994 by his Chemical Bank counterpart Walter Shipley (R) about a merger, “Tom was actually offended that Shipley could even imagine Chase doing a deal with his institution,” says one banker who was close to both men

No one in the banking industry has sat atop more big bank mergers than Bill Harrison.

As a 48-year-old corporate banking chief at Chemical Bank in 1991, he was there when Walter Shipley and John McGillicuddy struck the deal that brought together their two institutions, Chemical Bank and Manufacturers Hanover. 

Five years later, as vice chairman and head of wholesale banking at Chemical, he played a key role in its merger with Chase Manhattan. In 1999, he would take over the CEO’s job from Shipley at what then had become Chase Manhattan. He remained CEO and eventually chairman through both the JPMorgan and Bank One deals before turning over the keys to the kingdom in 2007 to Jamie Dimon.

Through all of that, Harrison had a front row seat at what became under his watch, and arguably remains to this day, the world’s most powerful financial institution. 

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