U.S. Bank has lost four senior executives in less than a year. Time for a refresh?
When Joe Neuberger resigned as president of U.S. Bank’s global fund services business in late 2022 – after a 28-year career at the bank – the obvious solution was to install Christine Waldron, chief product officer for the wealth management & investment services business unit (WMIS), as interim head. Waldron has been there, done that: a very accomplished senior manager who has been instrumental in the long-term success of U.S. Bank’s investment services business.
Neuberger’s departure followed a senior resignation in Europe, when Linda Gorman stepped down as CEO of the global fund services business in Europe. Then, earlier this year, Dale Smith, a 45-year veteran of the bank, announced his retirement. And now it has been confirmed that Christine Waldron is moving to BNY Mellon to head the fund services business. Waldron has nearly 25 years of U.S. Bank experience under her belt, and will not be easy to replace.
Undoubtedly, the investment services business has thrived under the leadership of Gunjan Kedia, a vice chair who has recently taken on more responsibilities with the addition of the corporate and commercial banking franchises to her WMIS brief. It now has >USD10trn AuC/A, and has enjoyed recent successes in both its Ireland and Luxembourg operations.
It has also built a very strong bench of talent, hiring from competitors as well as developing internal managers. But no one can withstand the loss of more than 100 years of experience without an inevitable loss of momentum – and now would be the perfect time to reconfigure the business and, at the same time, re-examine its raison d’etre. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the strategy, but it would do no harm to revisit it – especially now that it is established as a credible international provider through its offshore presence.
In fact, Kedia began moving in that direction when she appointed Hosni Shadid, her chief administrative officer, as head of international for WMIS in 2021. His appointment recognised the growing importance of the international business.
The good news is that the management team, at all levels, is more than capable of taking it to the next level. Just look at some of the people it has attracted over the last five (or so) years: Dylan Curley from J.P. Morgan, David Kubilus from Maitland, Tony O’Brien from BNY Mellon, Wally Barys from Northern Trust, Laura Cote from BBH, Jay Martin from Citco, Didier Delvaux and Bardad Sambou from State Street, and Darren Hodges from Barclays, to name just a few. This is to say nothing of the longer-serving managers, such as Breda Sullivan and Ken Somerville in Ireland.
It is never easy to lose some of your best performers – just ask Northern Trust, which lost a slew of people with 30+ years’ experience. How do you replace that and still maintain the culture? The answer is: with patience. Rushing to replace Waldron is not the answer: granted, it’s a huge blow, but this is an opportunity for others to step up and fill the gap. Many of those mentioned above have the credentials to succeed at higher levels, and now management has to give them that chance.
Kedia knows this. She is steeped in the inserv business, having been a senior manager at State Street and, before that, BNY Mellon. This bank does not look or sound like many of its competitors, and nothing is going to happen in a hurry (remember, it bought Quintillion in 2013 and then waited nearly 10 years before opening in Luxembourg).
Over recent years, U.S. Bank has undergone several understated, yet transformational, projects – the revamping of the agent bank network under the guidance of Barys, the implementation of SEI’s SWP platform under Dale Smith’s leadership, the highly successful Luxembourg launch and, at a corporate level, a major shake-up of the enterprise-wide operations functions to achieve more synergy.
It’s a great story, and there’s more to come. But it will happen in the unique style that has served the business so well over the last 10 years. U.S. Bank is all about delivery and execution, and that will continue to define it, regardless of the distractions that necessarily arise when good people leave. This is a global contender for the long term.