William B. Harrison Jr.

Chairman and chief executive officer, J. P. Morgan Chase & Company

Nationality: American.

Born: August 12, 1943, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

Education: University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, BA, 1966; completed Harvard Business School International Senior Management Programme, 1967.

Family: Married Anne (maiden name unknown), 2001; children: two.

Career: Chemical Banking Corporation, 1967–1969, trainee; 1969–1976, corporate and correspondent loan officer; 1976–1978, head of banking operations on the West Coast; 1978–1983, senior vice president and regional coordinator, London office; 1983–1986, executive vice president and head of the U.S. corporate division; 1986, head, North America division; 1987–1989, group executive in charge of the Banking & Corporate Finance Group; 1990–, vice chairman, institutional banking; Chase Manhattan Corporation, 1999, president and chief executive officer; J. P. Morgan Chase & Company, 2000–2004, president and chief executive officer; 2001–, chairman and chief executive officer.

Address: J. P. Morgan Chase & Company, 270 Park Avenue, New York, New York 10017; http://www.jpmorgan.com.

■ William B. Harrison Jr. was the product of three generations of family bankers. Through a series of rapid acquisitions Harrison, a low-key executive who prided himself on teamwork, transformed J. P. Morgan Chase & Company into the second-largest bank in the United States, behind Bank of America. Effective June 15, 2004, J. P. Morgan Chase acquired Bank One for approximately $58 billion in stock, forming the second-largest U.S. bank, having loans and assets of $1.1 trillion. The transaction also ended years of speculation about whether Harrison would be forced out of J. P. Morgan Chase, which had suffered greatly in an economic downturn. Harrison was expected to remain at J. P. Morgan Chase until at least 2006.

William B. Harrison Jr. © James Leynse/Corbis.
William B. Harrison Jr. ©
James Leynse/Corbis

With 2003 sales of $44.3 billion J. P. Morgan Chase & Company was formed by the merger of two venerable institutions—the commercial bank Chase Manhattan and the investment bank J. P. Morgan. The combined entity offered commercial, consumer, and investment banking services to clients worldwide, although its branch network was highly concentrated in the Northeast and Texas. Investment banking services included brokerage, asset management, and proprietary investment. The company was one of the largest mortgage loan originators and credit card issuers in the United States. In 2004 J. P. Morgan Chase also owned a 45 percent stake in the mutual fund company American Century Investments.


In 1931 Harrison's grandfather founded the Peoples Bank and Trust Company in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, a cotton and tobacco town where Harrison spent his childhood. His father worked for Peoples before making a career shift into real estate development. Harrison once commented that a key skill he used during mergers—adeptness at building loyalty in his employees by granting them complete trust to do their jobs—stemmed from a childhood free of rules and curfews. As Harrison told Justin Schack of Euromoney Institutional Investor , "My dad and my mom both were very trusting. They expected only the best behavior from us and trusted us to deliver. They taught us to have the confidence in ourselves to trust others."

At a private school in Virginia, Harrison won an award for mentoring younger students. He also excelled on the basketball court and earned a scholarship from Dean Smith, the revered coach of the University of North Carolina. Harrison ultimately fared better as the team cheerleader. Recalled Smith to Schack, "As it turned out, he didn't play very much. But he practiced very hard and pushed his teammates to be better. He had the kind of attitude I wanted all the players to have." After spending a year on the bench, Harrison gave up his scholarship so that Smith could recruit more talented players.


Harrison's grandfather encouraged him to train with a major Wall Street firm after college and bring back his lessons to the family business. Recalled Harrison to Schack, "I always had in the back of my mind that I would return to North Carolina. That lasted for, oh, 15 years." After being graduated with a degree in economics in 1966, Harrison spent the first two years of his banking career as a trainee at Chemical Banking Corporation. In 1969 Walter Shipley, the legendary CEO at Chemical, recruited Harrison to work as a corporate loan officer. Harrison's first big promotion came in 1976, when he was dispatched to San Francisco to run banking operations on the West Coast.

Personally mentored by Shipley, Harrison next worked for Chemical in London as senior vice president and regional coordinator. The title came with immense responsibility. Harrison went from managing 15 employees to leading 1,200. When infighting threatened to disrupt the office, Harrison announced a three-day retreat with a corporate psychologist. Harrison told Schack, "For the first session we spent 12 hours in a room together, and the rule was you could only talk about what you didn't like about people. We got everything out in the open, established trust in each other and were able to move forward from there as a team." In Harrison, Shipley mentored an executive who both reminded him of himself and was different. Shipley shunned pedigrees and demanded that his staff prove themselves in a meritocracy. Although Harrison clearly had come from a banking family, Shipley liked his low-key, team-focused style. Both executives had fierce drives and impeccable work ethics.

In 1983 Harrison returned from London to become executive vice president and head of the U.S. corporate division. In 1986 he assumed responsibility for the North America Division. A year later he became group executive in charge of the Banking & Corporate Finance Group, which developed and managed credit and investment banking services for corporate and institutional clients worldwide. Harrison was named a vice chairman of Chemical in August 1990.


In 1996 Chemical bought Chase Manhattan for $10 billion, at the time the largest banking acquisition in history. Harrison spearheaded the combined firm's expansion in fixed-income trading and syndicated lending, making him a contender to succeed Shipley, who was nearing retirement. In July 1999 the board named Harrison president and CEO of the combined company. Harrison brought a tech-intensive focus to the CEO job and launched Chase.com, a unit designed to pull ideas from business units and to incubate technologies. During Harrison's tenure as CEO, Chase gave its private equity unit, Chase Capital Partners, new relevance that emphasized the unit's stakes in a range of emerging industries, including technology, media, and telecommunications. Harrison recalled feeling relaxed in the top corporate seat. He told Liz Moyer of American Banker , "It's a lot more fun being a CEO than I would have guessed" (February 1, 2001).

Harrison spent exorbitantly on an acquisitions spree, aiming to become a one-stop destination for meeting corporations' financial needs. In 2000 the spree culminated in the $34 billion purchase of J. P. Morgan, a deal that created a major market contender with assets that ranked third behind only Citigroup and Bank of America. Commenting on the contention that he had paid too much, Harrison told Market Week with Maria Bartiromo , "You don't get any great property at a discount."

For Harrison the payoff was the opportunity to become a major player in investment banking, an industry dominated by J. P. Morgan. Harrison told Moyer, "This is a critical merger for this company. It does basically make us complete as a global investment bank, and that's something that Chase was not" (February 1, 2001). Critics disagreed, pointing out that Chase had purchased a business that largely mirrored its own. The resulting firm still did not make the top three in the lucrative areas of mergers and acquisitions and equity underwriting. An anonymous competitor quoted by Heather Timmons in BusinessWeek said, "It was a bit like stacking doughnuts. The holes are all in the same place." Three months after the merger J. P. Morgan's profits were crushed by a collapse of the capital markets. In 2001 return on the company's $800 billion assets hovered at 0.24 percent, one-sixth of the industry average. That year the bank laid off 8,500 employees, triple the number it had predicted, owing to a slump in its business. Dozens of top bankers left of their own accord.

In 2002 the picture continued to look bleak. The company was hampered by bad loans, venture capital losses, and a lack of profitable mergers and initial public offerings. In January of that year mergers and acquisitions activity was down 50 percent from 2000, and issuance of new shares was down 20 percent, according to the New York research firm Dealogic. The board continued to support Harrison but was forthright in its contention that a turnaround was a stipulation for further employment. Lawrence A. Bossidy, a J. P. Morgan Chase board member and the former CEO of Honeywell International, told Timmons, "We're comfortable with him and this platform … and we believe the bank is doing the right things. Still, I don't want to beat around the bush–if the economy recovers and the earnings don't, well, that's a negative."


Another source of concern was the Enron scandal, which had a ripple effect on J. P. Morgan Chase. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that the company helped Enron set up complex financing, which allowed Enron to hide debt and make earnings and revenues look much better than the actual financial position. Harrison explained the transaction as follows on After Hours with Maria Bartiromo : "We advance money to Enron on day one, they agree to deliver gas to us sometime in the future, a year or two years in the future, and with that gas, we then get repaid. That is very typical financing in the energy business. We did it for Enron. A lot of other major financial institutions did this for Enron and a lot of other energy companies around the country, so it's very normal financing." He went on to explain that his company had acted within the confines of accounting conventions and rules. Although Harrison initially insisted his company's ties to the beleaguered energy corporation were perfectly legal, J. P. Morgan Chase ultimately paid the Securities and Exchange Commission a fine of $135 million for contributing to the Enron fraud. As of 2004 the bank faced civil suits for causing unclear damages in financing the company.


As the CEO, Harrison lacked the charisma and take-charge attitude of many of his industry peers. Instead of ruling with an iron fist, he believed in the power of collaboration and consensus. Harrison gathered his top executives around a table once a week to vent. One of his favorite books was Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence , which he gave to executives as part of performance reviews. Harrison told Timmons, "The big, complex global institutions of the future will be run by people that can build great teams. These businesses are too complex for one person to think that they can understand, run, and manage everything themselves." Critics interpreted that explanation as a cover-up for weak leadership. Lee R. Raymond, the CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation and a member of the board of J. P. Morgan Chase, explained to Timmons, "There's this notion out there that these guys sit around holding hands, then take a vote and see how it turns out. I don't think that's how the bank runs."

Harrison used off-site retreats to encourage cohesiveness at the new company. He brought in the Duke University coach Michael Krzyzewski to address his workers and hired Jack Welch, the esteemed former CEO of General Electric, to set up a training institute for company executives. For Harrison, getting his people to work together was integral to the company's success. Harrison told Schack, "We've spent a lot of time doing deals to get the platform in place. The key to taking the firm to the next level is taking care of the people factor."

Harrison's intense focus on human relations belied a fierce competitive streak and boundless energy. Erskine Bowles, the former White House chief of staff and Harrison's friend since prep school, recalled a summer vacation in which friends were given a "dusk to dawn" schedule that included every outdoor activity imaginable, from horseshoes to badminton. When it rained and someone expressed relief at the respite, Harrison emerged with the news that a ping-pong table had been set up in the garage. Bowles told Moyer, "You have to lead, follow, or stand aside. There's not much follow or stand-aside in Bill Harrison. He's constantly challenging himself. And he's used to winning."


Harrison believed that his company, along with other large financial institutions, played a crucial role in global economic development. In a speech to the Synergos Institute in 2002 Harrison said, "We act as financial engineers that mobilize and direct the flow of capital because we have a clear stake in the communities we serve and do business in around the world." Under Harrison's watch J. P. Morgan Chase invested in the global outsourcing trend that had U.S.-based multinational corporations doing business in Asia to cut costs. J. P. Morgan Chase opened several facilities in China and created centers of technological expertise in India to support its global banking operations. Expanding its global reach and generating positive public relations in Africa, Harrison directed the bank to help blacks acquire the skills to obtain executive positions in its South African operations.


In 2003 J. P. Morgan Chase, scarred by a series of setbacks in the world of finance, announced a shakeup of its top ranks that included the departure of its highest-profile investment banker and the reassignment of other top managers. The stock price had decreased more than 20 percent over the previous year while earnings sank 72 percent. Harrison was under increasing pressure from investors to show his determination to revive the bank's fortunes and revamp his senior management. Departing was Geoffrey Boisi, the co-head of J. P. Morgan's investment banking operations. The bank said Boisi had decided to leave in the face of Harrison's decision to reorganize. In Boisi's place David Coulter, who a few years earlier had been ousted from Bank of America where he had been heir apparent, was named sole head of investment banking. Coulter became the bank's most influential business manager. He joined Chase from Beacon Group at the time of the purchase and became head of J. P. Morgan's retail banking and asset-management business. He retained oversight of investment management and private banking.

Harrison successfully guided Morgan Chase through 2003. Profits increased 300 percent to $6.7 billion, from $1.7 billion in 2002, and the stock price rose from $15 in late 2002 to $40 in early 2004. In addition, the investment banking business was beginning to succeed owing to a trend in one-stop corporate banking and to Harrison's appointment of Coulter as chief of investment banking. In 2004 J. P. Morgan Chase ranked fourth in global equity underwriting, up from 14th in 2001.


With more than $100 billion in 2003 revenues, Citigroup was the world's largest financial services firm that year. To truly compete globally Harrison knew his bank had to grow. In 2004 he negotiated a deal to merge Chicago's Bank One with J. P. Morgan. The headquarters were in New York, and Chicago was the base for some retail operations. Although J. P. Morgan described the transaction as a merger of equals, J. P. Morgan had acquired Bank One for approximately $58 billion in stock, forming the second-largest U.S. bank, loans and assets totaling $1.1 trillion. The transaction combined Bank One's strength in consumer financial services with J. P. Morgan's formidable hold on the corporate banking market. The combined bank's network of branches grew to 2,300—three times the size of the Citigroup network. As quoted by Shawn Tully in Fortune , Thomas Brown, an independent analyst with Bankstocks.com, said, "Their strengths and weaknesses match up almost perfectly."

In an interesting twist to the consolidation of colossal corporations, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of Bank One, was designated to succeed Harrison as CEO in 2006. This move was expected to place Dimon in competition with Sanford I. Weill, his former mentor at Citigroup. By chance or fate, Harrison had secured the talent of one who understood his rival. After years of tumult William Harrison's good fortune was something of an enigma. Raphael Soifer, the chairman of Soifer Consulting, told Aaron Elstein of Crain's New York Business , "'Strategic genius' isn't a phrase I've heard associated with him. But he survives—again—and lands on top" (January 19, 2004).

See also entry on J. P. Morgan Chase & Co. in International Directory of Company Histories .

sources for further information

Bartiromo, Maria, "William Harrison, Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase, Discusses his Firm's Involvement in the Enron Scandal," After Hours with Maria Bartiromo , CNBC, August 5, 2002.

——. "William Harrison of JP Morgan Chase Discussed the Future of the Newly Merged Corporation," Market Week with Maria Bartiromo , CNBC, January 5, 2001.

Elstein, Aaron, "Deal Rescues Morgan Chief, May Give Him Staying Power," Crain's New York Business , January 19, 2004.

Harrison, William B., Jr., "William B. Harrison, Jr.'s Plenary Remarks," University for a Night 2002, Synergos at the United Nations, http://www.synergos.org/universityforanight/02/harrison.htm .

Moyer, Liz, "Banker of the Year: Harrison Has the Helm," The American Banker , February 1, 2001.

Schack, Justin, "Can a Nice Guy Finish First?" Euromoney Institutional Investor , January 1, 2002, p. 40.

Timmons, Heather, "The Besieged Banker," BusinessWeek , April 22, 2002, p. 68.

Tully, Shawn, "The Deal Maker and the Dynamo," Fortune , February 9, 2004, p. 76.

—Tim Halpern

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