June 17, 2014 at 1:00 am

Charles Thomas "Chick" Fisher III, Grosse Pointe Farms

Retired bank official led NBD to prominence

Mr. FisherCharles T. Fisher III. Detroit News historic file photo. (The Detroit News)

Charles T. “Chick” Fisher III, former chairman, president and CEO of NBD Bancorp, Inc. and its predecessor National Bank of Detroit, died Sunday, June 15, 2014. He was 84.

Born Nov. 22, 1929, in Detroit, he was the son of Charles Thomas Fisher Jr., the bank’s president, and Elizabeth Briggs Fisher, daughter of Walter O. Briggs, who founded Briggs Manufacturing Co. and owned the Detroit Tigers, relatives said. He also was the grandson of Charles T. Fisher Sr., co-founder of Fisher Body, which later became part of General Motors Corp., relatives said.

Mr. Fisher earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in 1951 and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University in 1953, relatives said.

He did not initially plan a banking career, starting out in public accounting in Detroit, according to a 1993 News article. Mr. Fisher joked then that his father “wouldn’t hire me and I didn’t want to work for him.”

When his father died unexpectedly at age 51 in 1958, NBD officers asked his son to join the bank, which became the state’s largest.

Mr. Fisher joined NBD as an assistant vice president in 1958, was named president in 1972 and added chairman to his title in 1982, according to relatives and News archives.

During his tenure as chairman, profits increased more than five-fold, assets nearly quadrupled and shareholders enjoyed a healthy annual return of 24 percent — in part to what NBD Bancorp called “the Fisher effect,” according to News archives.

The bank’s acquisitions, strong lending culture and reputation for quality made it a regional powerhouse and earned a ranking among America’s best corporate banks in Corporate Finance magazine, according to a News article published shortly before Mr. Fisher retired in 1993. Also, throughout much of his chairmanship, the bank’s slogan was “One of America’s great banks.”

“He truly enjoyed the interaction with every individual that he encountered, every day, in every aspect of his job,” said his son, Larry Fisher.

In 1995, NBD merged with First Chicago to form First Chicago NBD, which in 1998 merged with Columbus, Ohio-based Banc One, taking the name Bank One. In 2004, Bank One merged with JPMorgan Chase & Co., according to its website.

Despite his position and the bank’s success, Mr. Fisher was not known to court publicity or seek attention.

“It’s just the way I’m built,” he told The News in 1993. “I don’t have to be high profile to be effective.”

Mr. Fisher was active in numerous professional and community groups, including as a board director of American Airlines, DTE, General Motors, Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, and Detroit Symphony Orchestra, relatives said. He also was a founding director of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, representatives said.

“He loved the city of Detroit and took great joy in seeing the organizations he was affiliated with have meaningful impact on as many people as possible,” his son said.

The longtime Grosse Pointe Farms resident also served on his parish finance council, said Joe Kohn, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Besides his son, other survivors include his wife, Margaret Elizabeth “Beth” Keegin Fisher; children Margaret Elizabeth “Lisa” Fisher Jones, Curtis William Fisher and Mary Florence “Mimi” Fisher Hickey; 10 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; siblings Mary Elizabeth Fisher, Jane F. McDonnell, Fred J. Fisher II, Walter B. Fisher, Sarah F. Champion and John A. Fisher.

He was predeceased by a son, Charles T. Fisher IV, who was killed at age 35 in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

Visitation is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. today at Verheyden Funeral Home, Inc., 16300 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Park. Prayers are at 7 p.m.

Services are set for noon Thursday at St. Paul on the Lake Catholic Church, 157 Lake Shore, Grosse Pointe Farms.