Edward D. Miller, a banking executive and philanthropist, died on...

Edward D. Miller, a banking executive and philanthropist, died on Sept. 26 at age 80. Credit: Dean M. Miller

Edward D. Miller, who played a pivotal role in the mergers of the giant banks that evolved to become today's JPMorgan Chase & Co., has died.

The longtime Garden City resident succumbed to heart failure on Sept. 26 in Jupiter, Florida. He was 80.

Miller was raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. In his 2016 memoir, "Miller's Time," he recalled a rough-and-tumble neighborhood and hustling at a succession of jobs, including pretzel vendor, bartender, model and drugstore stock boy.

He began his banking career in the early 1960s as a clerk, making $51 a week at Manufacturers Hanover, known in the industry as Manny Hanny, said his son, Dean Miller of Wantagh.

After a stint in the Marines, Edward Miller returned to Manny Hanny, studying at Pace University in his off hours.

By 1997, Miller had risen to become senior vice chairman of Chase Manhattan Corp. and the executive deemed by The Wall Street Journal to be "heir apparent" to then-chairman Walter V. Shipley.

In climbing the executive ladder, Miller said in his memoir, some of his management beliefs became encapsulated in sayings that became known internally as "Miller-isms":

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"Build a culture of teams, not superstars."

"Ninety percent of strategy is execution; ninety percent of execution is communication."

"You can criticize concepts, you can criticize action plans, you can criticize programs, but never criticize people or their ability to make a contribution."

Dean Miller recalled his father warmly greeting the security guard by name and asking about the guard's family when they walked into the bank offices.

"He never looked at people like he was the boss," Dean Miller said. "He loved to talk and he had an incredible curiosity. He knew how to raise people up."

As vice chairman of Manufacturers Hanover, Edward Miller guided its 1991 merger with Chemical Bank. The combined entity, Chemical Banking Corp., was the second-largest bank in the United States, and Miller became its president.

Five years later, Chase Manhattan combined with Chemical in one of the largest mergers in banking history, becoming the largest bank holding company in the country.

Today's JPMorgan Chase remains a goliath as the largest U.S. bank with $3 trillion in assets.

But by early 1997, Miller, then senior vice chairman of the combined bank, Chase Manhattan, decided that he didn't want to wait four years until the expected retirement of Shipley, the chairman.

Miller resigned despite what Shipley described as strenuous efforts to keep him at the bank.

The bank was "in mourning," Shipley told The Wall Street Journal at the time.

Shipley died in 2019.

"Very simply, I didn't see myself going any higher in the hierarchy of the newly merged bank any time in the near future," Miller said in his memoir. And he didn't relish biding his time.

"I'd given my heart and soul to Manny Hanny, Chemical and now Chase," he said. "I couldn't perform my job halfheartedly; pretending to be involved while I was really tapping my fingers on my desk."

As it turned out, Miller was soon to return to the executive suite.

He joined AXA Financial later in 1997, serving as its president and chief executive until 2001. He also was chairman of the board of American Express Centurion Bank.

In addition to his son, Miller is survived by his wife, Carole Miller, and seven grandchildren.

Among the dignitaries at his funeral was Miller's friend and former American Express chairman and CEO Kenneth Chenault.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be sent to charities and institutions in which Miller was active: Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research; Northwell Health Cancer Institute; Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation; The Hagedorn Little Village School; and Phoenix Houses of NY/LI — The Edward D. Miller Center.

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