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Smith shuns retirement for stint as Chase Indiana chair

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The new chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Indiana needs no introduction to the state's banking and community circles.

And, ironically, J. Albert Smith Jr. is nearly eight years older than his 65-year-old predecessor—Dennis Bassett, who retired as Chase Indiana chairman in January.

Al Smith chase mugJ. Albert Smith Jr.

The bank announced Smith's appointment on Monday. He has served as president of the bank in central Indiana and managing director of JPMorgan Private Bank since 2005. He has worked for Chase and its predecessor banks for more than four decades.

Having pretty much done it all in banking over his career, why does Smith (who is about to turn 73) want the job?

“I think it’s an honor and a privilege to be able to do this as I wind down my 50 years in banking,” Smith told IBJ.

Essentially, Chase is combining his most recent role and Bassett’s into one position. In addition, the biggest bank in the state is promoting well-known executive Bob McElwain to vice chairman of the market, while he maintains his current leadership role over middle-market banking.

Like Smith, McElwain also is heavily involved in community causes. His causes include YMCA of Greater Indianapolis and The 500 Festival.

Meanwhile, Chase recently promoted Jim Macdonald to Indiana market manager of its private bank arm. He had been a senior vice president in the Midwest region of commercial banking for Chase.

Smith serves on a dizzying number of community and corporate boards, ranging from Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership to Simon Property Group.

The Indianapolis native joined American Fletcher National Bank—which later would be bought by Bank One and then become Chase—in 1969.

In 1998, he was tapped as managing director of Banc One Corp., a role he held until 2001. He also once headed its mortgage unit.

“Al is certainly a known quantity in the community, and that may be what they deemed most important," said Joe DeHaven, president of the Indiana Bankers Association.

Smith and his wife, Maribeth, have been married 50 years.

He said wanted to keep up the momentum Chase has built in Indiana.

“We’re very fortunate in Indiana to have a very strong fiscal position as a state," he said. "Unemployment has come down. Manufacturing has come back.”

Chase has about 2,200 employees locally.

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