Merc taps a banker with ties to area

Now with Deutsche Bank, Mason will map growth as vice chairman

College classmate of CEO's

October 21, 2003|By Paul Adams | Paul Adams,SUN STAFF

Alexander T. Mason will leave his post as vice chairman of Deutsche Bank's U.S. division to help Mercantile Bankshares Corp. map out a growth strategy, the Baltimore-based bank said yesterday.

Mason, a 30-year banking veteran and former college classmate of Mercantile chief executive Edward J. Kelly, will join Mercantile as vice chairman but won't serve on the bank's board of directors. He joins a bank that has struggled with low interest rates and the complexity of managing its acquisition of Frederick-based F&M Bancorp, its largest ever.

"We've gotten much larger and the regulatory and legal environment has gotten more complex and ... the operating environment hasn't been ideal in the last few years, so we need some help," Kelly said.

The bank is expected to report lower earnings today as a result of tighter interest margins, merger expenses and seven-figure severance payments related to a shake-up in the bank's wealth management division.

Kelly said Mason will focus on risk management, strategic planning and human resources. He joins the bank next month.

Mason, like Kelly a Princeton University graduate, began his banking career in 1973 with Bankers Trust, where he held a variety of administrative positions and helped start its media and telecommunications practice in the mid-1980s. He was named managing director and co-head of corporate finance for BT Alex. Brown shortly after the Baltimore investment firm was purchased by Bankers Trust in 1997. He moved to Baltimore a year later to manage the combined businesses.

Mason has shuttled between Baltimore and New York ever since Bankers Trust was purchased by Deutsche Bank, Germany's largest bank. The move to Mercantile gives the former investment banker a chance to stay in Baltimore.

"I think most of us are being asked to spend increasing amounts of our time in New York," Mason, 52, said yesterday. "If you look back over the last three to four years, more of my time has been spent in New York than Baltimore, and that's hard on family and is just sub-optimal from a lifestyle standpoint."

Though he is leaving a global powerhouse for a relatively small regional bank, Mason said Mercantile will give him an opportunity to be at the center of a growing business, which he called the "Tiffany" nameplate in the mid-Atlantic market.

"I think it's very well positioned in this market, and I think it's an institution that can grow from its current position and it can grow, obviously, through acquisitions," he said.

Analysts said Mason's local ties will prove useful for Mercantile as it tries to grow.

"I think Mercantile has grown meaningfully with the recent acquisition of F&M Bancorp and the company is looking to bolster its senior management with a very experienced, seasoned banker from the Baltimore area," said Gerard S. Cassidy, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets. "So hiring a group of people from Dallas to come into Baltimore just wouldn't give you the bang for the buck, in our opinion. We like to have people with roots in that area."

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