Family name carries on in new leadership Knott can draw on strong local ties in drumming up business

First Union

August 04, 1996|By The profiles on this page were written by Sun staff writer Bill Atkinson.

No one can accuse J. William Knott of being an outsider.

The 39-year-old area president of First Union National Bank of Maryland grew up in Baltimore and is a member of the sprawling Knott family.

His grandfather, Henry A. Knott, was a local construction mogul, and his uncle, Henry J. Knott Sr., who died last year, a philanthropist and treasurer for former Gov. Marvin Mandel.

"Prestige doesn't mean anything," he said. "I took this job because I have a chance to positively impact, influence and make decisions in the town I grew up in."

And his bosses at Charlotte-based First Union Corp., which has $140 billion in assets, appear to be giving him plenty of decision-making power.

"According to the vice chairman, I can do anything that is not illegal, unethical or immoral," Knott says with a laugh.

He has the authority to approve loans up to $25 million.

He hires and fires and makes recommendations as to where branches should be opened or closed, and he manages his own budget, although it is approved by the corporate office.

"Technically, the buck stops here," he said.

Knott oversees about 450 employees, 28 branches and $2.3 billion in assets.

He has spent most of his time making sure First Union's conversion of First Fidelity Bancorp. branches is going smoothly, and employees understand the company's new line of products.

First Union completed its merger with First Fidelity in January, so Knott, who was hired in April, is always on the run.

He said he's so busy he's turned down offers to sit on the boards of charitable organizations.

"We have got enough to do at the bank that until things start to click along at a better rate, I'd rather concentrate my emphasis here," he said.

Knott, who lives with his wife and two children in Cockeysville, received a business degree from Loyola College in 1979, and a master's in business administration from the school in 1981.

During his graduate studies, he worked as a commercial lender at Mercantile-Safe Deposit & Trust Co.

In 1984 he joined Mellon Bank Corp., where he started the company's loan production office in Towson.

He left Mellon briefly, but rejoined the company and eventually ran a $350 million commercial lending portfolio out of its Rockville-based bank.

Now, with his roots back in Baltimore, he's reacquainting himself with old friends and trying to drum up business. He says First Union is about the fifth largest bank in Baltimore, and the company typically ranks first or second in many of the cities it operates in.

"It is logical to conclude that we will try to make acquisitions in the marketplace," Knott said. "It's a very competitive market. We certainly have a challenge ahead of us."

Pub Date: 8/04/96

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