American Savings' retiring CEO, Mario Antoci, is part of a vanishing breed of old-line executives who believe thrifts can still make money in mortgages.

As president of H.F. Ahmanson's Home Savings Bank during the 1980s, Mr. Antoci bombarded California consumers with a new alternative to fixed-rate loans - an adjustable-rate model that moved in tandem with deposit costs, said analyst Jonathan Gray of Sanford Bernstein & Co.

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