Life After Chase: Chase Credit Class I

Notes from an Early 40th Reunion

The Chase Credit Class I held an early 40th reunion on November 4, 2009, with 17 members of the class reminiscing over lunch at Fraunces Tavern.  Joe Murphy, who helped organize the luncheon, provided the following notes. Some more extensive notes from class alumni will appear soon as separate "Life After Chase" entries.

Twenty-eight talented Credit Analysts arrived  on the seventh floor of 1CMP on June 22, 1970. Some were military veterans, others right off college campuses from across the country.  The youngest, Ed Cooper, was 21. The oldest, Phil Blaisdell, was 28. The class included two women and 26 men, holding BAs, BSs, MAs, MBAs and a JD. 

We were greeted by an outstanding teaching staff for intensive courses in Statement and Credit Analysis, lasting 18 to 30 months based on past experience and education. Professor Dale Broderick of Columbia University taught Accounting.  Dave Banks, Sin Sing Chiu, Leon Desbrow, Roger Griffin, Peter Holzer, Tim McGinnis and Ted Stevens joined the venerable Charles “Pete” Bailey to lead us through the “Greenie Manuals”.  Section Managers and Department Managers were our taskmasters, providing credit referrals for us to assess and analyze as we gained expertise in the classroom. "Computer"' files were saved in little paper punched rolls of ticker tape.  Electronic adding machines – not calculators – with paper totals were attached to spreadsheets, and timesharing “online” services and microfiche were state of the art. Slide rules ruled.

As evidenced by our Reunion luncheon invitees, the Chase Global Credit Class I expanded as we moved through the training program. Trainees like Tom LaMonica who were drafted into military service from the program returned to join our class.  Monthly Credit Classes added that summer would merge and their members join our Credit Analyst production work teams:  Wade Bell, Jack Brown, Alan Delsman, Keith Kanaga, Dave Kuhn, Brooke Newell and Bob Weiss.

(Photo left: Wade Bell, Tom LaMonica and Brian Treadwell)

Today as we make our way through our next “passage” – retirement, or at least working less – we are still using those skills that we developed early at the Chase Credit training program and refined through life experiences.  Volunteerism plays a role in our lives; we work for the American Red Cross, alumni associations, aquariums and other not-for-profits.

We look back at what the Chase Manhattan Corporation was back in 1970: With $22 billion in total assets, it was the third largest bank holding company in the country after First National City Bank and Bank of America.  Retail branches were limited to the five boroughs of New York, with plans to soon expand to the contiguous counties of Nassau and Westchester. There were over 30 internationally based subsidiaries. Compare that to the merged entity that exists today. 

As we gathered for an early 40th reunion, we’re taking a look at the legacy our Global Credit Class June 1970 leaves behind:

Tenure? Retention? By PITS, two of our 28 left under the Piers Brooke and Tony Terraciano Pass / Fail system.  The dread and intensity of PITS: Who still remembers their PIT names and still follows news about them?  So deeply did we get immersed.

Within 10 years, half of our Class went on to other endeavors, leaving Mother Chase behind.  For our 20th anniversary, there were four still standing: Ken Brown, Ed Cooper, Bob McDonald and Gene Pickens; by our 30th, Ken, Ed and Gene. After 39+ years, Ken carries the Class Flag as the surviving veteran of mergers that have led to today’s JPMorgan Chase. (Photo right: Gene Pickens and Ken Brown)

Who can forget the Odd Couple apartment, when Phil Young had the good fortune to sublet a luxurious Upper West Side flat and invited Phil Blaisdell and Vic Cordell to share the spacious quarters at the start of the training program? Those Chase Bulletin Boards were valuable sources of information. Phil describes the setting as ideal for studying credit, conducting endless political debates and enjoying girlfriends flying in and out for weekends at their 96th Street "bachelors' pad".  By the end of the summer, Phil Young moved on to the state of matrimony and Leon Grove moved in.  (Vic says, “Surprisingly, Phil Young and I, who are both in the San Francisco area, are now good friends after that rocky initiation.”) 

Who can forget Vic and Bob McDonald reciting the names of the 100 U.S. Senators as a serving of lunchtime trivia?  The Talisman was our unofficial stopping off tavern on monthly promotion dates; six months after exiting Global Credit was the norm for appointment to Assistant Treasurer. And yes, we were competitive.

Young and in debt, we lived in all five boroughs of New York.  Some soon ventured out to Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey, purchasing their first homes with the Chase officer mortgage discount of one percent; a 30-year fixed rate was the only flavor. 

Global Credit reached beyond 1 CMP, as there was the Fifth Avenue Midtown location serving the commercial business in branches.  Some of us who were dispatched there wondered whether there really was a life after leaving the confines of the seventh floor at 1 CMP.  Gerry Armstrong, Denny Denniston, Roger Griffin and Mike Cassidy maintained law and order in this new office.  Tony T expanded Global Credit’s reach, and we were the first class to receive offers to initiate credit training programs at Chase's international branches.  Vic Cordell and Barry Sullivan were the first newly minted teachers off to London.  Brian Treadwell went off to the investment side, joining CIIC after the first year of training.

Within two years we completed Credit Training and were assigned across the community, commercial and institutional departments in the domestic and international sectors of CMB.  By the summer of 1972 Chase was moving from a geography-based organization to one based on industry sectors.  One graduate was adventurous enough to buck the trend to join commercial by becoming Branch Manager of the Community Bank at Rockefeller Center.  What was Peter Susser thinking?  Peter’s next assignment?  Factor and Finance Division, where he focused on providing leveraged acquisition financing to small- and medium-sized businesses and eventually headed up the leveraged acquisition area. There he discovered that you didn't need any money in order to purchase businesses. This was the 1970s?  In 1980 – as gold hit $850 (sound familiar?) ­– he answered a classified ad in The Wall Street Journal and purchased a midtown findings business. The rest is history, as he continues today as president of DRS. That’s what Peter was thinking.  Now he is moving to finalize the DRS sale and a gradual transition to retirement.

Three of us elected part-time MBA study at the nearby NYU campus at Trinity Place.  Joining one of our teachers (Gerry Armstrong), Ed Cooper (photo left), Joe Murphy and Gene Pickens spent their evenings trudging through classes and courses at the start of our professional lending careers at CMB, and we were all newly married.  What were we thinking?  Coop decided to introduce distance learning to NYU as he completed his Master's Thesis from Singapore, his first of many international assignments.  Within four years all of us had earned our MBAs in Finance, and within six years had been promoted to Vice President at the bank.

Throughout the early years there were challenging assignments as the mid-1970s version of the credit crisis provided opportunities and promotions and for some, resignations. Tom Hamm (photo right) headed for Japan as a newly minted lending officer.  In 1974, Bob McDonald moved to CML London for two years, with two years turning into nine years in a hurry.  Vic Cordell started the ex-pat life, joining Ed Cooper in Asia.  Ken Brown headed for Liberia before returning to New York to the Credit training staff, and then went on to the Bahamas as Country Manager. Phil Young and his Spanish skills went to Mexico City and then the Dominican Republic as Country Manager before moving on to Hong Kong.  By 1980, four of us were in Asia: Vic Cordell, Joe Murphy and Phil Young were in Hong Kong, while Ed Cooper moved from country to country.  Ed is back in Hong Kong now, but working for AIG.  Leon Desbrow, Peter Holzer and Tim McGinnis from our teaching staff were in leadership positions in the Asia Pacific Area at the same time. 

In the United States, Gene Pickens headed to Corporate Banking and then opened its first Loan Production Office in Chicago.  Gene would make a successful transition to the Investment Bank and retire after 33 years at Chase.  In 1975, Barry Sullivan was off to Chemical Bank in London and now claims 15 years as a Chase Chemical veteran. The next year, after tours in the Commodity Division and Latin America, Jim Goulka opted out to return to Yale for his MBA.  In 1977, Joe Murphy would spend a year working with Bill Hinchman in Operations and Systems ­– a  diversion from lending that would po sition him in 1984 for an additional 22-year career in technology at Chase, Corestates and MBNA, retiring from Bank of America in 2007.  Beth Donahue (photo left) was off in 1979 building on her Commercial Loan Syndication experience – a specialty she practices today in New York.  Brian Treadwell would take his Credit Analyst expertise to OPIC in Washington in 1976. He plans to retire from OPIC on December 31, 2009.

The 1980s saw more departures. Vic Cordell returned to Texas in 1984 to earn a PhD from the University of Houston and then went on to a new career as a university professor and international marketing consultant.  As of today, Vic is our only class member to have earned a doctorate.  There is still time for the rest of us.  

In 1985 Chris Thomas (photo right) moved to 85 Broad Street, joining Goldman Sachs, from where she retired in 2004.  John Bresnan moved to Lehman Brothers and then to Wachovia, where he elected retirement earlier this year.  Bob McDonald was off in 1991 to First Interstate International, which was soon thereafter acquired by Standard Chartered.

Two of our associates ­– Elizabeth McKee Werlinich and Ron Keenan – passed away all too early. Elizabeth died in 2000 in her early 50s after a long battle with cancer.  She began her lending career in the Pennsylvania / Ohio District.  She resigned from Chase – at least as a full-time employee – moving with Doug Werlinich to Chase Tokyo.  Doug was the Country Manager, and Elizabeth was very active as the unofficial host for the many Chase-sponsored events there.  Simultaneously she continued her 17-year working career at Estée Lauder International, where she was Vice President-International Field Marketing. 

In the late 1970s, Ron authored a paper for Chase’s Wall Street Division in Institutional Banking on something new called “Mortgage Backed Securities”.  He was the first to move to 270 Park Avenue, when he went to work for Manny Hanny; 270 is, of course, the head office of JPMorgan Chase today.  Ron was a pathfinder.  He died on JUly 29, 1999, after a day of fly fishing in the Adirondacks.  It was his favorite activity, which he pursued with his usual high degree of intelligence, analysis and intensity.

Here are memories and updates from our colleagues themselves:

Phil Blaisdell: “One strong memory I have of those early '70s is the week of vacation that I mostly spent in writing a paper on commodity financing. I learned later that members of some credit training class after ours made copies of my paper, and I guess it took on a life of its own. Years later, I bumped into graduates of Chase Credit Training in a number of overseas locations who mentioned that “Blaisdell Memo”. It seems that I unwittingly left a lasting legacy of my rather lackluster career at Chase. After a couple years each at Chase Tokyo and Regional Office Hong Kong, I was shipped off to Saudi Arabia to help get the Saudi Industrial Development Fund (the kingdom’s development bank) up and running. I enjoyed that experience very much. It was at this point that I think I really began to flourish.  I wrote a business plan for a start-up industrial project, found partners, borrowed $2 million interest-free from the Saudi Fund, and built the first tea factory there. I ran it profitably for 10 years, paid back the $2 million, and then sold out to Lipton in 1989.”

Ken Brown: “After my initial Liberia assignment (the unfortunate result of my stating 'I'll do anything to go overseas'), I spent time back in NYC in Credit Admin, as a Team Leader in Credit Training (good old 1 CMP-7), and Latin America Financial Institutions group before opting for Country Manager - Bahamas in 1986 (the best job that ever existed or ever will exist in the Bank).  My marching orders were 'turn it around or we sell it.'  Good news: I turned it around.  Bad news: It got sold anyway (but only after three enjoyable years).  Since 1996, I've been a Credit Officer in the transaction services group covering Asia, Latin America and (alas) U.S. Financial Services industry, so that last portfolio has kept me rather busy over the past two years.  As Joe writes, there was a lengthy period when the survivors were Ed Cooper, Gene Pickens and myself.  I remember hearing of Ed's departure, which led me to immediately call Gene and say, 'It's now just you and me.'  His reply: 'Not so fast, Ke-mo Sah-bee, I'm racing to beat Ed out of here!'  I'm looking to retire in one to two years myself, or whenever I regain my sanity - whichever comes first.”

Barry Sullivan:  “Five years at "Old Chase" followed by 10 at Chemical Bank (first in London teaching credit then covering Scandinavia; next Bahrain and then Toronto doing both Chemco Leasing and then Corporate Banking).  Went corporate in 1985 joining Massey-Ferguson (tractors etc.) as VP Treasurer in Toronto.  Then on to a succession of similarly titled positions in the US, ending with seven years at Lancaster, PA-based Armstrong World Industries, from which I retired in 2008.  Still live in Lancaster area and also now spend half the year at our farm in upstate NY, which Betty and I bought 18 years ago.”

Peter Susser:  "After just about 10 years at Chase I left to purchase DRS, a jewelry wholesaler and manufacturer located on 47th Street (in the NY jewelry district).  I bought the company in 1980 with the help of another asset-based lender and maxing out on over 10 credit cards for the down payment. The end of that story is that now, after almost 30 years, I am in contract to sell the company to key employees.  During my industrial career, I grew DRS with the help of a number of acquisitions and also digressed into new territory.  At one point I purchased an importer and distributor of ladies' dress fabrics with the help of another Chase alumnus.  Even more strange, I sold that company to form a new commercial bank.  The Bank Of Great Neck opened in 1986 and was the first new commercial bank on Long Island in over 20 years.  A National Bank, Federal Reserve member and FDIC insured, we were capitalized with $5 million.  The formation process took over three years and required struggling through  bureaucratic hurdles that, in the end, proved entirely rational.  I had the premises constructed in an office building in Great Neck, formed the 'back office', hired a staff and ran the bank as President while my managers ran the jewelry company.  Eventually the Bank was sold to Northfork Bancorp – one of our initial investors – who, in turn was sold to Capital One.  The Bank (branch) remains in Great Neck.  I recently was accepted as a FINRA 'neutral', where I will be presiding over arbitrations.  I will also remain at DRS working three days/week to ease the transition.  And if I become bored watching the azaleas grow, I may check out those classifieds once again, which is now so much easier on the Internet..."

Brian Treadwell: "When I transitioned from college to graduate school, I met a prominent international lawyer based in New York who asked me what I wanted to do when I got out of school.  Having just read a book on international business, I replied that I wanted to be an 'international business diplomat.'  He said why don't you join a money center bank in New York and they'll train you?  Forty years later I still possess a U.S. Diplomatic Passport as a Director of Project Finance at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and look back on my business training at Chase. Five years after I met that lawyer, married, and with a Master's Degree and two years of service with USAID in Washington and Vietnam, I applied several times to Chase for employment.  I was successful on the third try and got an offer for the June 1970 Credit Training program where I met you, my colleagues.  Entering without any training in banking and finance, the program was quite a struggle, and I described it as 'a cross between fraternity hazing and army basic training.'  My first child was born that September.  During the first year of training, a new trainer joined from England, Andrew Greatrex, and I was assigned to him.  In a counseling session, I mentioned my interest in international investment, moreso than commercial banking, and after about one year in the Credit Training program, Andrew found me a financial analyst position in Chase International Investment Corporation. In ensuing years, CIIC ran into some rough patches and seemed to be changing its focus.  During these years, I was negotiating political risk insurance contracts with a new Washington entity, OPIC.  One day I saw an ad in a Tuesday WSJ for an Investment Officer position at OPIC and applied.  Left Chase for OPIC in April 1976. Thought OPIC would be good for two years and then I would move on, but now I look back and ask where did the last 33 years go?  OPIC has provided me with travel for project finance loans to every continent except Australia; one time I met Vic Cordell in Jakarta and tried to get Chase interested in OPIC's leasing program.  Also, at OPIC I received management training. At one time I supervised a lending team covering 80 countries, and after the Berlin Wall fell I was assigned to all the new Central & Eastern Europe and NIS countries with which OPIC negotiated investment treaties. In the 1990s, it was financing gas-fired power plants in Turkey, after financing a number of telecoms in Central & Eastern Europe.  Well, now looking forward to retirement so I can improve some neglected skills, see my three daughters and five grandchildren in California, and take better care of my health."

Phil Young:  "Leveraging my Spanish skills to accept an early assignment to Mexico City, which led to my favorite Chase experience, as Country Manager in the Dominican Republic.  When I received a congratulatory letter from my predecessor in the DR, George Reeves (who became Country Manager of Argentina) with the friendly advice to 'enjoy your new role as Country Manager in the DR because it is all downhill afterwards,' I was a bit mystified until years later after moving on I concluded that he was right about it being the best assignment anywhere during those years in the banking industry.  Later after a couple of years at Chase Hong Kong area office, I accepted a position in corporate banking at Hibernia Bank in SF and then joined Bank of Boston in NYC  before returning to northern California to set up my own investment advisory office in Santa Rosa. Now 'retired', I spend time with Cindy between CA, Las Vegas and Costa Rica, where we have been developing some ocean view properties.”

Any additional classmates with comments or notes can send them to news@chasealum.org.