For decades, Detroit’s top banking executives also led in top civic roles. The late Charles “Chick” Fisher of NBD (now JP Morgan Chase) and Eugene Miller of Comerica Bank were decision-makers and major players at a time when Detroit boasted corporate headquarters for the state’s largest banks. For the latter part of the 20th century, bankers and utility executives often had a bigger civic role than auto company executives.Times changed. Mergers followed. And bank headquarters dwindled.There are six bankers on Crain’s 2015 list of the 100 “most connected” business people, but the spot of John Carter, Michigan market leader for Chase Bank, at No. 1 on the list of 100 might surprise the other bankers with higher public profiles.Credit the reach of Chase and its local predecessor NBD, as well as Carter’s own long list of community involvements.
“I’ve been with the bank 35 years,” said Carter, 59. “From a traditional perspective, going back to the National Bank of Detroit days, before we became Chase Bank, we’ve always been a major multimillion-dollar contributor on a philanthropic basis. We’ve always had a major representation in philanthropy and civic leadership. It’s how we think we should conduct ourselves.”
Business leaders were ranked in five categories (described in the story at the bottom of this page) that assessed the breadth and strength of their connections.
Of the 9,300-plus people whose links were studied, Carter finished in the top 50 in all five categories, the only banker to do so.
Helping Carter reach the top of the list were long tenures on several boards, which made his connections stronger. Matt Elliott, Michigan market president of Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America Inc., ranked lower for strength of connections because many of his board positions go back just two years, to when he was promoted to his current position.
Carter said while his service on the boards of such civic groups as the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy and the Downtown Detroit Partnership is important, his membership on the boards of the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, Forgotten Harvest Inc. and the Judson Center Inc. are what he savors.
“I feel strong emotional attachments to those,” he said. “The things that resonate with me are organizations that aim at children, families and community,” he said.
“I’ve been on the board of the Y for more than 20 years, I’ve been on the board at Forgotten Harvest for eight years or so and on the board at Judson for 10 years.“Judson does God’s work. They affect kids and families and make a huge difference,” he said.