Bank One had it all five years ago.
Its CEO, John McCoy, was a native son whose family was well respected and ran among the social and political elite in Columbus. The bank's reputation fed off this popularity and its assets and earnings tended to reflect that.
The only local financial institution that could hold a candle to Bank One was Huntington Bank. The two developed a natural, but fierce rivalry. Then, when merger mania tore through the financial industry in the '90s, the Bank One we grew up with became something else entirely. It became just another big, out-of-town bank.
Tom Hoaglin, who spent 26 years working for Bank One, lived that rivalry. But now he's on the other side of the battlefield -- if it's even fair to call it that anymore. After all, when Bank One merged with First Chicago NBD and moved its headquarters to the Windy City, the rivalry faded. Huntington was crowned champ by default.
Still, Huntington's new crown didn't sparkle like it should have. Perhaps that's because Huntington execs didn't take advantage of Bank One's exposed underbelly. They never marketed Huntington as the real banking leader in Columbus. And when other out-of-town banks started gaining a stronger foothold in Columbus and Huntington's earnings and assets fell off, shareholders got angry. They even called for the head of former chairman Frank Wobst.
Hoaglin knew some serious image repair was going to be needed when he took Huntington's top job last year. He's wasted no time getting started.
Already the company's luxurious executive suite is history, and so is its corporate jet. Hoaglin is trying to provide better service at bank branches by empowering front-line employees, who used to fear taking action without approval from above. He's trying to open lines of communication with employees, customers and shareholders.
He's trying to make Huntington the bank it could've been three-and-a-half years ago. From what I've seen, I think he can do it. We'll find out April 29 if shareholders agree.