Sunday, November 27, 2005

Chase: Remembering “Vision Quest”

A reference this weekend to an American Indian “vision quest” brought to mind a long-ago corporate monstrosity, Chase Manhattan Bank’s own “vision quest” project of the early ‘90s. The effort was, I believe, ascribed to then-CEO Tom Labreque. I recall that a friend told me, after I had moved on to other work, that the bank actually inscribed the resultant values from the “vision quest” project onto a panel on the wall of the bank’s then-headquarters downtown at Chase Plaza.

I suppose an indication of how useless the resulting “vision” was is that Chase was acquired by Chemical bank within just a few years of the company-wide project’s conclusion. As I recall, it was that, or have Michael Price, then a hot mutual fund manager, force the bank’s senior management to dismember the firm in order to wring more value from it. Either way, Labreque's hand was forced, and he lost control of the bank he had labored so hard to finally "lead."

Today, Chase is a combination of Manufacturers Hanover, Chemical, and JP Morgan with Chase. The only significant US banks on the island of Manhattan that didn’t merge into it were Bankers Trust, which was snapped up by Deutsche bank after its ill-fated derivatives moves later in the decade, and Citibank.

Maybe the lesson here is that clueless white senior managers shouldn’t try “vision quest” –ing on their own, or with conventional management consultants.

Perhaps if Chase had actually retained an American Indian consulting group, complete with hallucinogenic substances, their efforts would have met with more success. It's arguable that the results of such a "vision quest" could have led to any worse results than those which followed from the erstatz process the bank actually employed.

No comments: