My Experience

I have 20+ years experience as a senior leader, a manager and an advisor to high net worth families, and I love to build great businesses with great people.

I formed my own consulting firm, Clientific, to help financial advisors and their firms grow by connecting and engaging with their clients.

Prior to that, I built and led a team that transformed a fragmented legacy of multiple regional firms into a nationally recognized platform at one of the largest and most respected financial firms in the country. Details are below if you interested in learning more.

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-JP Nicols, CFP ®


The Details

I started my financial career as a branch manager at Ameritrust in Cleveland in 1989. In 1992, they merged with crosstown rival Society Bank to form what is known today as Key Bank. With two of the top three banks in town merging, the Department of Justice required them to spin off about $1 billion to the highest bidder, which turned out to be Star Bank (the former First National Bank of Cincinnati).

Within a few months, I became a private banker and started work on my CFP® designation, and Jerry Grundhofer pulled his golden parachute from the Security Pacific/Bank of America merger and landed as the new CEO. He brought with him a talented 34-year old named Richard Davis to run the branch network, and the fun really began. We grew from $6 billion in assets to $18 billion through a lot of small mergers and strong organic growth, and we had two 3-for-1 stock splits (roughly $90 to $30 to $90 to $30). Not many bankers get to tell that kind of story.

In 1998, Star Bank bought Firstar Bank (the former First Wisconsin Bank), and took its name and moved its headquarters to Milwaukee, roughly doubling to about $35 billion in assets. In 1999 I was recruited to National City Bank (now PNC) to join their newly-burgeoning wealth management team, and I learned a lot about comprehensive wealth management working on an integrated cross-functional team. Meanwhile, Firstar doubled again to about $75 billion with the acquisition of Mercantile Bank in St. Louis.

In 2001 Firstar acquired U.S. Bank, doubling yet again to $160 billion, and once again, they took the acquired bank’s name and moved into its headquarters, this time in Minneapolis. Around this time, I was recruited back to the organization to lead the team I used to be on. I rebuilt the team and we quickly doubled the bottom line, and as the merger integration accelerated I was asked to move to Seattle to lead the newly formed West Region, and we doubled the top and bottom line there in four years.

At the end of  2006, Jerry Grundhofer retired as CEO and the board wisely handed the reins to Richard Davis, who wanted to build a world class wealth management platform, so I was asked to join a new team to do just that. We spent a year of significant strategy design and organization and staff changes, and when we were ready to execute our new vision I was asked to become the first Chief Private Banking Officer for the newly formed Wealth Management Group. I recruited a great team of my own and we transformed a loose confederation of regions into a true national platform with a unique value proposition and  product set.

U.S. Bank weathered the financial crisis arguably better than any other bank in the country and acquired a few failed banks to become the fifth largest bank in the nation, with nearly $350 billion in assets. I am proud of my service to that organization and proud of what our teams accomplished. I had the rare opportunity to learn from not just one, but two American Banker Banker of the Year honorees, and I remain a friend and fan to each of them.

The experience prepared me well for my future endeavors, and now is the time to take that next hill…

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