Lisa Binder's first stretch on the job as president and COO hasn't been easy. Associated Banc-Corp, Wisconsin's second-largest bank, has been hit hard by the housing crisis. "When you look at our numbers, the area that shows the most stress is the provisions," says Binder, who took the job early last year after running a regional retail banking division at Citizens Financial.

In the first half of 2008, Associated posted net income of $114 million, down 24 percent from the same period a year ago. Loan loss provisions soared to $82 million, from $10 million the year before, driven by losses in commercial real estate and construction loans. The provisions also hit the return on equity, which fell to 9.67 percent on June 30, from 13.42 percent the year before.

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