Mellon executive to head First Union here Knott takes over from Cicero

April 04, 1996|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,SUN STAFF

First Union Corp. yesterday named a Mellon Bank Corp. executive to run its operations in the Baltimore area, setting new leadership for the operations that the Charlotte, N.C., banking titan took over when it bought First Fidelity Bancorp. in January.

J. William "Bill" Knott, 38, was named president of the Baltimore region for First Union, which has 53 branches in the metropolitan area.

The bank also announced that J. Scott Wilfong has been promoted to the post of commercial banking executive for the state of Maryland.

Mr. Knott said the bank probably will reduce the number of branches in the short term, before expanding by acquiring branches from other banks.

Long term, he said, branch locations will become less important as retail customers focus more on electronic banking via telephones and computers.

"My goal is to raise the level of service at First Union, and differentiate us as providing the highest level of service," he said.

"Longer term though, the view is that technology is going to be more and more important to the consumer."

Mr. Knott takes over from Joseph Cicero, who First Union said resigned effective May 31 to pursue other interests.

Mr. Cicero was the senior remaining executive from Baltimore Bancorp, the parent company of the former Bank of Baltimore, which First Fidelity had bought before First Union bought First Fidelity.

Mr. Wilfong was recruited from First Maryland Bancorp in July to supervise First Fidelity's efforts to build a local commercial lending base.

First Fidelity, and now First Union, have said they want to use their much larger resources to push the bank into business lending areas in which the smaller Bank of Baltimore was never able to become a major player.

Instead, the smaller bank lent money mostly to consumers and smaller businesses.

First Union's share of the market in Baltimore "is nominal right now," Mr. Wilfong said.

"I think we had 4 or 5 percent [when he arrived last July] and that may have gone up to around 8 to 10 percent.

"It's clearly not where we want to be, which is positioning ourselves as [No.] 1, 2 or 3 in a primary market."

Pub Date: 4/04/96

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