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O’Neill surfaces in paradise

In February 1999, soon after accepting the job of chief executive officer at Barclays Bank in London, Michael O'Neill began to suffer an irregular heartbeat

In February 1999, soon after accepting the job of chief executive officer at Barclays Bank in London, Michael O'Neill began to suffer an irregular heartbeat

By Hal Lux
December 2000
Institutional Investor Magazine

The arrhythmia turned out to be virus-induced and ran its course. But the long recuperation required that O'Neill, a former Bank of America CFO, give up one of the biggest jobs in the banking world. In November he went to a very different place, as chairman and CEO of Pacific Century Financial Corp. in Honolulu. The parent of Bank of Hawaii, Pacific Century has $14 billion in assets, one thirtieth of Barclays' total. The Pacific Century workforce of 4,000 is dwarfed by Bank of America's 90,000. But the 54-year-old O'Neill says the smaller numbers mask "a company that is very complicated in balance-sheet terms. I like the challenges here." Those challenges include geographical expanse - Bank of Hawaii has 130 offices stretching from Singapore to New York - and credit problems stemming from the weak Hawaiian real estate market and economic doldrums throughout the Pacific Rim. "The credit issues are my highest priority," says O'Neill. At 2.25 percent of total loans, Pacific Century's third-quarter nonperforming-asset ratio was twice the industry average, but O'Neill says the trend is reversing. "Now other banks are facing the credit issues we are putting behind us. We're looking less like an outlier."