Chase Indiana chairman retiring

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Try to imagine the local reaction had JPMorgan Chase & Co. sent a battalion of fast-talking New York executives to run the largest bank in Indiana—Bank One—after it bought the Chicago-based bank in 2004.

Bassett Bassett

Think about that, and one can better appreciate Dennis “Denny” Bassett’s role as chairman of Chase’s Indiana operations.

Bassett, who retires at the end of this month, will tell you things might not have gone well for Chase without a Midwesterner in the front office over the years.

“That was priority No. 1—to maintain an Indiana face to a very large corporation,” said Bassett, 65.

The native of Danville, Ill., who started his banking career in Indianapolis in 1973, is “the typical Midwestern, hometown kind of guy” who can connect with people, observed Joe DeHaven, president of the Indiana Bankers Association.

It’s not yet clear who will replace Bassett. He’ll only say there’s plenty of executive talent within the Indiana unit, which has more than 2,200 employees locally.

Historically strong bank leadership in Indianapolis over the decades has helped businesses and not-for-profits advance a number of community causes.

bassett-factbox.gifTake, for example, 1970s-era Indiana National Bank Chairman Tom Binford. He helped establish and lead the city’s Urban League, was chief steward of the Indianapolis 500, and worked with countless community organizations over the years.

Bassett “has performed in the community that critically strong role bank leaders have traditionally played in central Indiana,” said David Johnson, president and CEO of Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, on whose board Bassett serves.

CICP has been the springboard for a number of community initiatives on everything from logistics to advanced manufacturing to the life sciences.

Cut teeth at local banks

Chase’s influence is exerted in part through Bassett’s serving on the boards of at least 10 organizations in the region. But it’s easy to forget he began his career here way back in the 1970s, in commercial lending.

In 1973, Bassett and his new bride rumbled into town in a 1970 Chevy Malibu. He’d recently earned a business degree from Eastern Illinois University and had filled out job applications at American Fletcher National Bank and at rival Indiana National Bank. INB hired him.

Starting in credit review, Bassett worked his way up into senior commercial lending roles.

“For the first 20 years of my career, banking was more predictable, static and fun,” he recalled.

In the 1980s, Indiana’s banking laws were changed to allow banks to branch into other counties. But the reforms came too late relative to other states such as Ohio, where banks grew large enough to swallow Indiana’s biggest banks in one bite. In 1986, then-Columbus, Ohio-based Bank One bought American Fletcher—one of Indianapolis’ big-three banks.

Six years later, Bassett’s own INB was snapped up by National Bank of Detroit, better known as NBD.

Despite the downsizing and buyouts resulting from the NBD deal and subsequent mergers, Bassett managed to move from one position to another in corporate lending, including senior credit officer for large corporate banking in Indiana, Kentucky and southwest Ohio. He had valuable knowledge of clients.

Mergers “ended up enhancing my career, enhancing my opportunities, really,” said Bassett, who has a tinge of folksiness that reminds one of the late Gov. Frank O’Bannon.

Some of that no doubt comes with the territory of traveling Indiana and nearby states in search of clients. “Building relationships was the most significant thing I learned in my early banking years.”

In fact, to this day, he’ll run across family members of a business he worked with over the decades. “Sometimes they say, ‘My father knew you,’ or, ‘My grandfather knew you.’”

He’d move up the ranks again when NBD merged with First Chicago, in the mid-1990s, and when Bank One took over in 1998.

In 2001, Bassett moved into the president’s job—this time down the street at Huntington Bank’s Indiana headquarters.

Two years later, he was back at Bank One—as CEO for Indiana. That lasted only about a year, until JPMorgan Chase acquired Bank One in a $58 billion deal.

Bassett wound up as middle-market-segment manager for Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, until named to his current position as chairman of Chase Indiana in 2009.

Transition time

Although Chase is a $2.6 trillion asset, global powerhouse, ultimately “you have to deliver the products locally,” Bassett said.

“The challenge with employees was to make them feel empowered, relevant and wanted at times of organizational rationalizations.”

Also, the challenge to give back resources to the community “was always a priority and became a focal point with each merger.”

Chase makes more than $3 million in charitable contributions each year in this market.

“Because of the heft [Chase] has, he’s had some wonderful opportunities” to influence giving, DeHaven said.

Among the 10 boards on which Bassett sits is that of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, where he has worked on financial committees and has taken a hands-on approach, said chamber President Kevin Brinegar.

That pace will slow after Bassett retires late this month. He’ll continue to serve on some boards such as that of the Sharon L. Bassett Foundation, which assists families affected by breast cancer and is named in honor of his late wife.

Bassett has remarried. His wife, Sally Brown, is perhaps best known for heading the Ambassadair travel club when it was owned by ATA Airlines. He expects to help her with a school she plans to build in Costa Rica.

The couple recently bought a horse farm. “On my first day of retirement,” Bassett said, “I will get up and feed the horses and smile.”•


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. A couple of issues need some clarification especially since my name was on the list. I am not sure how this information was obtained and from where. For me, the amount was incorrect to begin with and the money does not come to me personally. I am guessing that the names listed are the Principal Investigators (individual responsible for the conduct of the trail) for the different pharmaceutical trials and not the entity which receives the checks. In my case, I participate in Phase II and Phase III trials which are required for new drug development. Your article should differentiate the amount of money received for consulting, for speaking fees, and for conduct of a clinical trial for new drug development. The lumping of all of these categories may give the reader a false impression of physicians just trying to get rich. The Sunshine Law may help to differentiate these categories in the future. The public should be aware that the Clinical Trial Industry could be a real economic driver for Indiana since these revenues supports jobs and new job creation. Nationally, this account for 10-20 billion which our State is missing out on to a large degree. Yes, new drug and technology development has gotten most of the attention (e.g. CTSI, BioCrossroads, etc.) However, serious money is being left on the table by not participating in the clinical trials to get those new drugs and medical devices on the market!!!! I guess that this is not sexy enough for academia.

  2. The address given for the Goldfish Swim Club is the Ace Hardware, is it closing?

  3. Out of state management and ownership. If Kite controlled it, everything would be leased. Of course, due to the roundabout, there is limited access to the south side of 116th now also. Just have to go down to the light.

  4. Hey smudge, You're opposed to arresting people for minor crimes? Sounds great! We should only focus on murders and such, right? Let's stand around and wait until someone shoots someone before we act. Whatever we do, we should never question anyone, frisk anyone, or arrest anyone unless they are actively engaged in shooting or stabbing. Very sound!

  5. You guys are being really rude to gays in the comments. (Not all of you, I presume). You need to stop it. Gays have just as much of a right to marry as straight people do. It's not fair how you guys are denying them equal rights. They're acting more human than you'll ever be. We obviously haven't matured since the bible was last updated. Hate the sin, not the sinner. You've all committed a sin at least once in your life. You've lied, you've stolen, etc. (Those are just possibilities). We should have a planet for people that support gay rights and a planet for people that don't. Then, gay people could get married without you bigots interfering with their love life. How would you feel if straights couldn't get married? How would you feel if teenagers were afraid to come out to their parents as straight? If straight people got hate everywhere they went? If straight people were afraid to go out in public, because they feared being judged? It's never going to happen at the rate society is going. You haven't seen the side of me where I act obscene. You're glad my inner demon hasn't been released. I would, but oh no, my comment would be removed because of my very strong emotions about this subject. I love gays, and love how they show their affection for each other. I just ADORE how a state is going to give same-sex couples a marriage license, then changes their mind. (I was obviously being sarcastic there). I just LOVE how society thinks gays are an abomination to our society. You're caring about marriage between two men or two women. That's a small thing. Just grow up, and let them marry. Let them live their lives. You can't make them change their sexuality. You can't make them change their lifestyle. In my opinion, gays are more than welcome to marry. Please, grow up and realize that people should be allowed to marry, even if it's same-sex marriage. You guys are saying that "the bible said gay marriage is wrong." Well, guess what else is wrong? Read Matthew:7 and you'll find out. (I am in no way breaking that. I am saying a fact). I'm stating that gays have just as much of a right to marry as straights do. (: