In Memoriam: John Philpot, 92

Credit Policy Pro

John C. Philpot, 92, a 37-year veteran of Chase Manhattan, died on November 26, 2013. He lived in New York City.

He served in the Pacific with the U.S. Navy during World War II.

John was one of two Senior Credit Policy Executives reporting to the Vice Chairman and top credit executive of The Chase Manhattan Bank and was a Senior Vice President in New York when he retired.

He joined the Bank as a clerk in the Letter of Credit Department in 1946 and worked his way into the credit training program and from there to a number of senior roles in Commodity Finance, the Asia Pacific Area and then to head of Credit Policy for all areas of the International Department as well as the Credit Policy staff and credit policy issues bank wide.

He is survived by several cousins and nieces and nephews. 

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From Joel Epstein: He was simply a marvelous person, a brilliant credit man and a role model who exemplified the very best aspects of the old Chase culture.  I mourn his passing.
     I will never forget the time he chewed me out for equivocating.  I had been asked to work on an annual review of a troubled Japanese shipping company.  I wrote a memo that basically said "there are positives and negatives" about this company and I listed the pros and cons, i.e. reasons to re-approve or to decline.  In my conclusion I wrote something like "on balance the positives are stronger and I recommend reapproval".   John pretended to be pissed off at me, and he used that occasion to teach me a very good lesson about the need to make a decision and then show some enthusiasm for your recommendations. I'll never forget that lesson.

From Bill Foulke: John Philpot was a mentor for a whole generation of international bankers at Chase Manhattan Bank during the 1970s and 1980s. I worked for him directly and indirectly for 10 years and can say that I never met a finer person. He was insightful, compassionate, tough, humorous, and succinct – an unusual blend of attributes. He had a wonderful way with words and knew how to summarize a situation forcefully in writing. He encouraged each of us who worked for him in international credit management to strive for the high standards of integrity and analysis, which he exemplified. Over the years, I remember a number of times arriving early at work to find a formal memo from him on my desk, even though his office was 10 feet from my desk. These memos – often containing constructive criticism but sometimes unexpected but much-appreciated praise – had the effect of spurring me on to do my best work. I'm sure there are scores of former Chase colleagues who have similar memories.  In his personal life, he was a devoted Catholic and family man. Many of us – men and women alike – felt that he treated us like the children he never had. If anyone deserves a beautiful reception by St. Peter, it is John Philpot. I miss him and will always remember him. 

From Rudi Eisenhart: John was quintessential Chase Manhattan. You were proud when he agreed with you and full of respect when he disagreed. I have regretted, that I did not know him better as a person outside Chase. In my memory John Philpot has had and always will have a very special place.

From Eshagh Shaoul: John Philpot was my first and best boss. I learned more from him than from the one year intensive Chase credit training program that I had completed before John hired me. I worked for him directly in the head office from 1974-75 and in his department while I was in Asia from 1978-83. One of his greatest lesson was how to deal cooperatively with colleagues and clients while maintaining human dignity and the dignity of the institution. It was due to his guidance and friendship that I had a successful career in credit risk management for 30 years.

From John Kissinger: John was a great friend and mentor to many of us at Chase and we were blessed to have him in our lives. A true Gentlemen, a listener, a compassionate person. He will be greatly missed.

From Peter Larr: John was a man of integrity, a gentleman, and had great professional skill and judgement. The world is diminished today.

From Bruce Rosborough: Would that everyone could have an opportunity to know a person with John's conscientious ability and integrity. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word, an example for all with whom he served. He lived the golden rule in all aspects of his life. Fond memories of John will endure among all fortunate enough to have met him. He was a loyal and trustworthy colleague and friend. I miss him.

From Michel Kruse: John was an outstanding banker in the best sense, a true gentleman and great mentor for many. He paired shrewd judgment with a warm personal demeanor and taught me a lot.

From Hans van den Houten: John was not only a great teacher, but a warm human being. He taught me self-confidence in the world of his expertise: commodities! He also was a guiding spirit, when we did our due diligence on Comtrust in the Philippines, always calm, knowledgeable and kindly spirited.
   I know that he will be remembered by many, who were fortunate enough to have worked with him.

From Stephen de Got: When I was a beginner in the Commodities Group (a year after more training), John walked up to me and told me I was going to work for him, and since he was a new AT and flunky, I was going to be a Flunky's Flunky. It was a six-year Ride with some interruptions.
     Years later he told me he tried to lower his rank and stop being a senior credit guy and go back to the line as a VP. It was refused, so he retired. His frustration: the presenter of a credit did not understand it and he turned it down, even though his was a way of doing it correctly.
     The most unassuming great man I have known.
John, thank you.

From Van Mellis: I was sad to hear about the passing away of John Philpot. He was a tower of a man because of his intellectual honesty. He was never dogmatic. I remember the numerous arguments I had with him due to the fact that the industry I represented was very popular amongst his colleagues in the area of his expertise, and there was never a dull moment. He was a terror of a credit man; I felt he defined my career with the Bank and made me a better professional. I am sure we all going to miss him!

From Ken Gentile: Another pillar of the old Chase has left us. His presence will always be remembered by those who had the privilege to know or work with him. A sad day.

From Ed von Leffern: It is so sad to hear of John's passing, but he was the pillar of Chase Manhattan. A true mentor, he was a conscientious gentlemen with great integrity. I will never forget the time he visited us in Korea to meet our customers and my largest account left an envelope with $10,000 next to his bed. I never saw him so mad. Of course he raised the question of whether CMB account officers received kickbacks.

From Paul T. Walker: My fond memories of John Philpot go back more than 50 years. My initial impression of John, which has never changed, was that he was a man of great integrity and responsibility. John was a warm and insightful person with a keen sense of humor. He was an outstanding credit officer with great judgment. Years after we both retired, we had an enjoyable lunch with Jack Hooper. It was apparent that John never lost his charm and sense of humor which I will always remember. We have lost a wonderful person and may John rest in peace.

From Doug Wallingford: In 1980, John Philpot asked an impressionable Assistant Treasurer to accompany him down the hall after an International Loan Committee meeting on CMP17. Was I in trouble? Had I failed to defend one of our more controversial names adequately? We entered the monstrous office of Jack Hooper. The equally imposing Jack Hooper proceeded to thank me for my hard work and after a 10-minute discussion, I emerged feeling motivated, appreciated and grateful. This was not an unusual act for John. He inspired so many and, as Bruce Rosborough notes, lived by the Golden Rule. He lives on in all of us who had the honor to work with him.

John taught so many of us not only the craft of banking, but more importantly the qualities of decency and humility. His faith in me at an early stage in my career gave me the confidence to grow and develop. He was a selfless man, with high standards who commanded respect from all who knew him. John gave so fully of himself, quietly and with great dignity. He had a personal warmth, a gentle sense of humor and a grace that is so rare. John epitomized the concept of mentoring. THere is no one who mastered that better. John: you will be greatly missed by so many. - See more at:

From David Weisbrod: John taught so many of us not only the craft of banking, but more importantly the qualities of decency and humility. His faith in me at an early stage in my career gave me the confidence to grow and develop. He was a selfless man, with high standards, who commanded respect from all who knew him. John gave so fully of himself, quietly and with great dignity. He had a personal warmth, a gentle sense of humor and a grace that is so rare. John epitomized the concept of mentoring. There is no one who mastered that better. John: you will be greatly missed by so many.

From Bob Shippee: I am yet another of John’s acolytes – one of so many.  I worked closely with him in the early 1980s after my return from Hong Kong to head office. I remember his telling me, kindly but firmly, it was time for me to stop being “the man behind the man” – to have the confidence of my own convictions. His example, advice and encouragement helped me immeasurably in my first real management role as Country Credit Officer in Tokyo in 1982. He was a rare breed in the banking world – a gifted, gentle, special man. I will miss him.  

From Bruce MacQueen: In January, 1969 I survived (barely) my second Schrafft's "breakfast" with Bill Henchman aka "Odd Job" and was assigned to that wonderfully named lending area called the International Domestic Group (IDG). More commonly known as the Commodity Division, it was not considered to be a fast track first assignment and certainly did not have the upscale funeral parlor ambiance that the Corporate Bank floors maintained. Instead of IBM or ITT we had customers named Golodetz, Chilowitz, Czarnikov, Schiavani Bonomo and the recently closed account of the Salad Oil King, Tino DeAngeles.
     My direct chain of command was Steve DeGot, John Philpot and newly arrived Frank Stankard. I was replacing my fellow American University alum John Linker*, who was embarking on his eminent and ultimately tragic overseas career.
     During the first week of my exposure to the daily chaos of commodity lending, Steve overheard me pretending to know the answer to a customer's question. When I completed the call, he not so quietly picked me up by my collar, slammed me against the wall and – not so quietly – instructed me to NEVER try to pass on any advice or information unless I knew it was accurate and true. No one around us took particular notice. It was one of a thousand lessons I learned from Steve's well-disguised brilliance in the art of lending and deal making.
     As the offset to the physical and mental abuse and wisdom offered by Steve, John Philpot would apply balm to my wounds and wipe away my tears. I won't repeat all the words used above by my colleagues other than to say that I was John's biggest challenge to mentor and and most appreciative beneficiary. For instance, one Friday afternoon in December 1969, I had a particularly difficult conversation with the treasurer of the American arm of Thyssen Steel. I hung up and threw the phone across the room (self-control was frowned on in the division). Monday morning waiting for me at my desk was a gift-wrapped package containing a red plastic toy telephone from John. It stayed on my desk for the balance of my stay in Commodities.
     The greatest description and remembrance of John that I can offer comes from one of our best alumni of the commodities team, Mike Tully. Mike said that John was the most Christlike person – and had magnificently influenced his life. I am only sorry that I did not say it first.

* Note: John Linker, an executive in Chase's Hong Kong office, was killed in the crash of a Japanese Air Lines DC-8 in 1977.  

From Bob Gjerlow: Joined Chase in 1960, training program and got to the Commodity in 1961. Met John and over the years became very close. The Group was small, tight knit, lots of brain power wrapped up with a lot of street moxy and common sense. Moved on, as did John. Worked together on stuff in Hong Kong and Singapore. We spoke a year ago. A giant in my life. Go in Peace John.

From Demetrie Comnas: In the mid 1970s the world of banking was far simpler than today. Credit and lending were the signature dish, and trading was looked down upon as a vulgar activity of little enduring value. It was during this time that some of today’s key financial inventions were created. Derivatives, swaps, the financialization of market strategies, and the monetization of trading strategies, which have since taken over from lending in the center ring of the financial circus. John Philpot understood the new wave of financial engineering for what it was, a thinly veiled attack on the anti-gambling legislation, a new and bigger way to place bets,  the ultimate casino, with secure payoff mechanisms, unlimited leverage, a wheel that never stops spinning and mutating, grossly asymmetric pay-off profiles, a wide world of punters who can never keep pace with the rule changes, and a house that cannot lose no matter what, even if it actually does lose.
     John took a stand against  some of the early invasions into this field. He called them out as nothing more than pure speculation and gambling, with no economic purpose. He resisted the allocation of any credit towards activities he could see were questionably intentioned and that risked opening a Pandora’s box of compulsive gambling disorder onto the already challenged world of commercial finance. He stood largely alone in his fight to retain legitimate economic purpose in banking, and happily withstood disparagement by the next generation of soulless MBA wizards who could not see beyond their next bonus installment. But he did make an enduring mark on the minds and conscience of many around him, who instinctively related to his clarion call to maintain a constructive purpose to banking. John was the best credit officer any bank ever had. His judgment was informed by thousands upon thousands of artfully crafted credit proposals, through which he had sifted the credit-worthy. He had seen every kind of gambit by every kind of charlatan, and had developed the instincts of a credit Jedi master, cutting through flawed arguments as a light saber cuts through butter. As a former credit supplicant, I valued John’s approval more than anyone else’s I needed along the way. And although he may not have stemmed the tide of gambling insanity that has now consumed the financial sector, he stood his ground to the last, and came home with his shield in hand.
Thank you, John Philpot, for keeping the faith and for fighting to make us better.

From Alan Koon: John Philpot was a very good man. I have lots of respect for him.

From Roger Lieblich: One of the truly great bankers at the old Chase – an excellent credit officer: scrutinizing, but always fair and considerate. A real gentleman and valued colleague. We will all miss him.

From Lawrence Burr: I can only restate what so many have already said about John Philpot, he was a remarkable man, a true Gentleman, a great Banker and a wonderful Boss to work with. The time I spent in John’s area was amongst the most enjoyable in my career, with a number of memorable moments – one quite painful. We were in Jack Hooper’s office seeking approval for a complex credit late on a Friday evening, and John recognized that my explanation was not working. However, I still kept presenting the credit, so John started to kick my shins to keep me quiet. As I metaphorically limped down the corridor, I received an earful from John on the need to be more aware of my audience. Lesson learned! Thanks John – a wonderful two years.

From Phillip Sorace: I never worked with John directly and only had episodic dealings with him in organization and HR matters. Later when I had to understand commodity transactions and later still when the "New Credit and Lending" was being invented, he taught me humility. Thank you John. He had a long life, lived well.

From Thomas T. Krauss: Of all the bosses and colleagues I had the privilege to work with during my 20 years at Chase, John Philpot is the person I remember most fondly. He provided me guidance and support when I needed it most and taught me that a good boss is one who develops people and helps them move along their career path. John, I wish I would have thanked you earlier!

From James Goulka: As Bruce MacQueen noted in an earlier remembrance of John Philpot, IDG—the Commodities Group—was a lively part of corporate finance at Chase, with raffish customers, unlike the grandees of Exxon, IBM, and GE.  The good news, though, was that they were active borrowers at full prices and kept large balances, and so were valuable to the bank. As in most groups at the time, the secretaries (as they were called then) were lined up in a row, like a subway train, along the inside wall of the area occupied by the group, with the rest of the staff in ranks in front of the windows facing the secretarial line. Late one Friday in the fall of 1971, everyone was working diligently, reading, writing, talking on the phone. No one noticed the secretary quietly weeping at her desk until John walked by and stopped at her desk, remaining long enough for everyone else to take notice. In his gentle voice, he asked her what was wrong. A regular practice at the time was for clients to call in loan requests, which would be fielded by the secretaries and handed to the officers for approval. The CFO of a large client had just called to demand a loan. When the secretary told him it was way too late in the day to accomplish the loan, he became abusive.  As John learned this, he asked her if she could dial the client back. She did. He took the phone from her and spoke clearly enough for all of us to hear, saying that no one at the Chase Manhattan Bank should be treated in that fashion, and that if he did not apologize to the secretary immediately, all of the borrower’s demand loans would be called on Monday morning and the banking relationship terminated. He then handed the phone back to the secretary, who received the apology. Task complete, he continued his walk back to his office. 
     The customer remained an active and important relationship. The secretary remained a happy employee.
     Possessing a keen intellect, an ability to make nuanced analyses of risk, John was also a man of deep compassion and humanity. By his actions, he showed us what a banker, in the best sense, could be.

From Dick Corrigan: We have lost a great gentleman and a true credit professional. For those of us who over the course of our careers have filled the role of credit officer at Chase or another institution, John served as the ultimate role model as to how that position should be handled. From his opening query of "What turkey have you brought me today?" to a final approval (or disapproval), you always knew you were getting a fair hearing and the best guidance you could ever hope to expect. His presence has been missed but his memory will always be with us.