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Even for a seasoned executive, putting together two legacy banks dedicated to the money matters of the wealthy was a daunting task.

Keith Banks, who oversaw the merger of U.S. Trust and Bank of America's Private Bank beginning in 2007, talked about it recently as a test of leadership style and decisiveness.

A 1977 alumnus of Rutgers College-Newark and now president of the combined organizations, Banks appeared last week as the eighth executive speaker in Rutgers Business School's CEO Lecture Series.

The series was started by RBS in 2010 as a way of providing students with access to thought leaders and prominent executives who can share real-world insights. A number of the speakers, like Banks, have been distinguished alumni. The series has also featured Ralph Izzo, chairman and CEO of PSE&G, Sheri McCoy, who left healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson last year to run Avon. Anne Whitaker, who runs the North American pharmaceutical business of Sanofi-Aventis, appeared as a speaker last year.

In his talk, Banks spoke about how he worked to make employees feel invested in a strategy to rebuild and reposition the new, combined business and how important it was to keep everyone focused, which he accomplished by putting strong leaders in place and showing employees incremental progress.

"If you don't have a strong team around you, you're going to fail," Banks told the audience of nearly 60 students, staff, faculty and administrators. "One person can only do so much."

Banks also spoke about the leadership that was required to make decisions that weren't always easy, such as revamping the compensation structure for managers. If the actual merger of the banks wasn't complicated enough, Banks also found himself dealing with two groups of employees resistant to giving up their own culture.

"You want to rely on your confidence, and ultimately," he said of leading employees through the changes, "you've got to infect people with it."

Banks was welcomed by Rutgers Business School Dean Glenn Shafer and introduced warmly by interim Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Philip Yeagle, who described him as a "dedicated mentor" to students and "indefatigable advocate" for the economics department. Banks majored in economics as a Rutgers student.

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