For U.S. Trust President Keith Banks, the task of transforming one of the nation's most venerable private banks came with a large array of challenges. In 2008, when he took the helm of U.S. Trust, which serves high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients, he faced an acquisition-weary set of employees and clients. They had been taken over by Bank of America in late 2007 after having been acquired by Schwab not long before that. "In their minds, it was, 'Here we go again,' " Banks says.

The culture clash between the private banking businesses of the two organizations was deep. "We had everyone identifying themselves as either, 'Hi, I'm legacy U.S. Trust,' or 'I'm legacy Bank of America,' and the line was kind of drawn down the middle," Banks recalls.

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