Kemper steps down at UMB to concentrate on e-commerce unit

Kemper steps down at UMB to concentrate on e-commerce unit

Olmsted, Monte

Three days after stepping down as UMB Financial Corp.’s president and CEO, Alexander “Sandy” Kemper was moving from company headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., to a new office down the block to oversee his brainchild, eScout.com.

Announced on March 21, the move was necessitated by the success of eScout.com, a UMB subsidiary that concentrates on business-to-business electronic commerce. Kemper becomes the chairman, president and CEO of eScout.com, while relinquishing his duties at the parent company and flagship institution, UMB Bank.

“[eScout.com is] a very successful company and I believe it has not nearly achieved its potential, ‘ Kemper said of the year-old company “Part of the reason for the move is I’ve got to focus as much as I can on eScout to go national. We now have a great number of bankers in the Midwest using eScout, but I’d like to see eScout not just be the ecommerce solution for the Midwest, but for the entire country.”

Kemper also stepped down as chairman and CEO of the $6.7 billion UMB Bank in Kansas City. His brother R. Crosby Kemper III, president of UMB Bank in St. Louis, will take his place at the bank. Their father, R. Crosby Kemper Jz, remains chairman of UMB Financial, but will once again serve as CEO of the parent company. Peter Genovese, chairman of UMB Bank in St. Louis and vice chairman of UMB Financial, will become president of UMB Financial.

The idea behind eScout.com is to build an Internet community that allows community banks and independent businesses to pool their buying power and get better prices on products and services such as computers, office equipment and telephone services. The goal is for banks to become the center of commerce for a community with the institutions marketing services to their customers.

By late March, eScout.com had 4,631 members. The breakdown is: 3,589 independent businesses, and 1,042 community banks. More than 100 members are signing on per week. Members are in more than 20 states with the bulk of them in Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.

The $8.1 billion asset UMB Financial has made a big investment in eScout.com, disclosing at the end of February that it raised $25 million in venture capital for the unit. At the same time of that announcement, eScout.com became a privately-held entity separate from UMB Financial, which retains 75 percent ownership.

Plans also call for eScout.com to go public in the near future, Kemper confirmed. An initial public offering could occur within a year, but Kemper noted the decision would be dependent on how accepting the market would be for a business-tobusiness e-commerce company.

Kemper does not view his change in positions as a away from the banking industry.

“I look at eScout really as a continuation of the principles of banking, meaning that eScout will re-intermediate community banks into commerce,” said Kemper. “I believe marry companies are trying to dis-intermediate community bankers. We are all about fighting those forces that at tempt to shut down community banks and cut them out of the commerce equation.”

So fad early success can be seen in the growth of nationwide membership as well as the number of employees. Today 64 people work for eScout.com, when just five months ago that number stood at 10. Kemper said by the end of the year, eScout.com employee numbers should climb to 150.

“It’s growing like the dickens,” Kemper said.

Copyright NFR Communications Inc Apr 8, 2000

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