Rohr, James E. 1948–
James E. Rohr
Chairman and chief executive officer, PNC Financial Services Group
Education: University of Notre Dame, BA, 1970; Ohio State University, MBA, 1972.
Family: Son of Charles E. Rohr and Loretta Kramer; married Sharon Lynn Chambers, 1970; children: three.
Career: PNC Financial Services Group, 1972–1989, joined company's management development program and subsequently moved through series of marketing and management positions in corporate banking sector; 1989–1990, vice chairman; 1990–1992, vice chairman and director; 1992–1998, president; 1998–2000, president and chief operating officer; 2000–2001, president and chief executive officer; 2001–2002, chairman, president, and chief executive officer; 2002—, chairman and chief executive officer.
■ James E. Rohr, who had spent his entire career with PNC Financial Services Group and its predecessor companies, became the banking corporation's chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) on May 1, 2001. Within months he found himself in the midst of a major accounting scandal that threatened to sweep him and most of the company's top executives from office. While others did pay the price for the accounting irregularities, Rohr survived and struggled valiantly to rebuild PNC's tarnished reputation and to maintain its independence.
As some measure of Rohr's success in reassuring investors, PNC's stock had climbed back into the upper $50s per share by early 2004, a sharp improvement from the high $30s to which it had plummeted in the wake of PNC's accounting irregularities. The company's stock, which was trading at about 10 times its earnings per share in August 2002, entered 2004 valued at roughly 15.5 times its earnings per share, not far below the industry average of 17.2. Rohr also underscored his determination to protect the financial-services company from takeover by announcing the bank's acquisition of the New Jersey-based United National Bancorp in August 2003. The acquisition of the holding company for UnitedTrust Bank, which operated 52 branches in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, was expected to increase PNC's customer base by more than 100,000 households and businesses.
PNC'S GROWTH AS FINANCIAL-SERVICE PROVIDER
As one of the top managers at PNC since 1992, Rohr was instrumental in shepherding the group from a local Pittsburgh-area banking institution into an influential regional provider of diversified financial services. Under his watch, PNC steadily moved away from such low-margin banking staples as mortgage services into higher-margin financial services, such as brokerage and treasury management, thus paving the way for accelerated growth. Rohr was also an early champion of the integration of technology into all of PNC's core businesses.
EARLY PROFESSIONAL LIFE
James Rohr was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 18, 1948. He attended schools in the Cleveland area and after graduating from high school enrolled at the University of Notre Dame in nearby Indiana. Rohr received his bachelor's degree in 1970 and returned to Ohio to pursue his master's degree at Ohio State University in Columbus. On December 29, 1970, he married Sharon Lynn Chambers. After earning his MBA at OSU in 1972, Rohr interviewed with a number of companies but was particularly impressed with PNC, which was then a small regional bank, headquartered in Pittsburgh, with less than $2 billion in assets. In a 2003 interview with Leaders magazine, Rohr recalled, "When I interviewed at PNC, I liked the people I met, which really differentiated the company for me."
After completing PNC's management-development program, Rohr moved through a series of marketing and management positions in the bank's corporate-banking department. Within PNC, Rohr's organizational and management skills caught the attention of high-level executives, who in 1989 named him vice chairman of the company. A year later he was given the added responsibilities of director. In 1992, Rohr was elected president, and he assumed the additional post of chief operating officer (COO) in 1998. During his years at the upper end of management, Rohr helped steer PNC away from its heavy reliance on interest income to increasing dependence on fee-based income.
OVERSAW PNC'S ACQUISITION OF BLACKROCK
Rohr played a major role in PNC's 1995 acquisition of BlackRock Financial Management, a fixed-income investment management firm based in New York. At the time of its acquisition, BlackRock had roughly $25 billion in assets under management. As of the end of 2003, that figure had skyrocketed to more than $309 billion. Four years after acquiring BlackRock for $240 million, in 1999 PNC sold 15 percent of the investment-management company to its employees and another 15 percent to the public. PNC retained a majority interest in BlackRock. To ensure that BlackRock continued to operate efficiently after its acquisition, PNC did something unusual for banks taking over an asset manager: It retained the partners of BlackRock—CEO Larry Fink and President Ralph Schlosstein. In discussing with U.S. Banker the working arrangement between PNC and its majority-owned subsidiary, Rohr said, "We work together on a lot of things; we have a lot of joint customers. Larry is in my staff meeting every Monday morning."
According to U.S. Banker, the acquisition of BlackRock and other moves directed by Rohr resulted in a sharp rise in the percentage of PNC's total revenue generated from non-interest income. In 1996 PNC posted $2.4 billion in net interest income and $1.4 billion in non-interest income. By 2000 net interest income had dropped to $2.2 billion, while non-interest income had climbed to $3.2 billion. According to PNC's preliminary earnings report for 2003, net interest income was roughly $2 billion, while non-interest income was close to $3.3 billion. Over the space of eight years, non-interest income had grown from about 36 percent of total revenue to approximately 62 percent.
Appointed president and CEO in 2000, Rohr moved quickly to accelerate PNC's transformation from a regional bank into a provider of diversified financial services. Under his direction, PNC saw its stock price climb from a low of less than $40 a share in early 2000 to more than $70 a share by the end of the year. After a brief and slight drop at the beginning of 2001, the stock climbed above its 2000 level, but the good times for PNC stock were not to last.
On May 1, 2001, Rohr succeeded Thomas H. O'Brien as chairman, while retaining his positions as president and CEO. Early in 2002 Rohr faced an accounting scandal that threatened for a while to topple him from his leadership of PNC. Government banking regulators announced that approximately $760 million in troubled loans and venture-capital investments had been moved off the company's balance sheets for 2001, artificially inflating PNC's profit. In addition to ordering the bank twice to restate its earnings, regulators in July 2002 put PNC under a six-month watch. The Securities and Exchange Commission issued a cease-and-desist order, maintaining that PNC made "materially false" disclosures. As part of the regulators' settlement agreement with PNC, the company was required to hire an outside consultant to assess the performance of top management and "take all steps necessary to ensure that the bank is deemed to be well managed," according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (July 19, 2002).
ROHR SURVIVES THE SCANDAL
Although two of his top lieutenants, vice chairman Walter Gregg Jr. and COO Robert Haunschild, were forced to step down in the aftermath of the accounting scandal, Rohr emerged from the storm somewhat battered but still firmly in charge. In August 2002 Rohr surrendered the president's job to a 30-year PNC veteran, Joseph Guyaux, but remained as chairman and CEO. At the same time, PNC's board of directors "unanimously reaffirmed" its support of Rohr's leadership, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times (August 28, 2002). In view of the widespread calls for his replacement, including an editorial in BusinessWeek headlined "Show Rohr the Door," Rohr's survival surprised many.
By the summer of 2002 Rohr was telling anyone who would listen that the bank's accounting problems were behind it, both "from a customer and an employee point of view," according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. To help mend its relationship with federal banking regulators, Rohr brought in Jack Wixted from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to fill PNC's newly created position of chief regulatory officer. Wixted, a senior vice president responsible for the supervision and regulation of more than one thousand financial institutions in the Seventh Federal Reserve District, was assigned to manage all of PNC's issues related to regulatory affairs and compliance. In announcing Wixted's appointment, Rohr said in a company press release, "He brings a breadth of knowledge and depth of experience, and he shares our belief in the importance of a constructive relationship between banking companies and their regulatory agencies" (July 18, 2002).
MAXIMIZES BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY
Rohr was widely credited with positioning PNC early on to make the most of new technology in its servicing of bank customers. In an interview with Leaders magazine in late 2003, he described how the bank's data warehouse enabled PNC to manage information in the most efficient manner possible. Rohr also touted the bank's call center and the extension of the company's Internet operation to all its branches. "In fact, I believe our online banking program has the second-highest penetration rate in the industry. As a result, we can provide a common customer experience" whether transactions are conducted online, through the call center, or at PNC's network of ATMs. Asked by Leaders to define his role as CEO, Rohr said he saw his primary responsibilities as mapping out, in concert with the board of directors, the strategic direction in which the bank should be moving and then communicating that message to employees at all levels within PNC. "So I have to create an atmosphere in which people understand, embrace, and commit to our direction. In addition, I have to select the right leaders and empower them to make a difference."
Rohr and his wife, the former Sharon Chambers, had three children. Both Rohr and his wife were active in Pittsburgh-area civic affairs. They cochaired the September 2003 Showplace Cabaret gala of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which Rohr served as chairman. He also chaired the board of Pittsburgh's Civic Light Opera and sat on the boards of United Way of Allegheny County and the Greater Pittsburgh Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Rohr's business responsibilities outside PNC included seats on the boards of Allegheny Technologies and of Equitable Resources. He was a member of the American Bankers Association, International Monetary Conference, and the Financial Services Roundtable. In July 2002 he was elected to the board of trustees of RAND, a nonprofit research organization that seeks solutions for challenges facing both the private and public sectors around the world.
See also entry on PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in International Directory of Company Histories.
sources for further information
Bennett, Robert A., "Pulling Ahead of the Pack," U.S. Banker, December 2000.
Boselovic, Len, "PNC's Rohr Keeps Job, Gets Bonus," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 15, 2003.
DiStefano, Joseph N., "Chairman Struggles to Regain PNC Financial's Credibility," Philadelphia Inquirer, August 11, 2002.
"Helping a Little BITS at a Time," Bank Systems & Technology, August 1, 2002.
Hoover's Online, "The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.," http://www.hoovers.com/pnc-financial/—ID__11138—/free-co-factsheet.xhtml.
"It's All about People and Execution," Leaders, October–December 2003.
"James Edward Rohr," Marquis Who's Who, New Providence, N.J.: Marquis Who's Who, 2004.
"John J. Wixted Jr. to Join PNC as Chief Regulatory Officer," company press release, http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/micro_stories.pl?ACCT=701257&TICK=PNC&STORY=/www/story/07-18-2002/0001766429&EDATE=Jul+18,+2002.
Panepento, Peter, "Executive Discusses His First Year at Helm of Pittsburgh-Based Banking Company," Erie Times-News, May 13, 2001.
Reuters.com, "Financial Snapshot for PNC Financial Services Group," http://www.investor.reuters.com.
Sabatini, Patricia, "Regulators Put PNC Financial under Six-Month Watch," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 19, 2002.
"Seeking to Rebuild Confidence, PNC Adopts New Standards," Pittsburgh Business Times, August 28, 2002.
Tascarella, Patty, "The Mouse That Rohred: PNC Chief Takes the Stage," Pittsburgh Business Times, July 20, 2001.
Weber, Joseph, "Finance: Commentary: Memo to PNC: Show Rohr the Door," BusinessWeek, September 9, 2002.