Bank of Atlanta announced Monday that chief operating officer Jack Guynn will succeed Robert P. Forrestal in the top job, effective Jan. 1. Mr. Forrestal, a lawyer by training who has been president since 1983, announced his plan to retire last May. He will be giving way to an executive steeped in the operations of the bank and the workings of payment systems. The Atlanta Fed has long prided itself on operational expertise and innovations, though Mr. Forrestal had grown into the traditional mold of a Fed president who made frequent pronouncements on the economy. Mr. Guynn's appointment seems a strong signal from the Atlanta Fed's board that it is as concerned with check processing and payments activities as with the chief executive's input into financial and monetary policy. The regional Fed presidents rotate periodically into voting seats on the Federal Open Market Committee, which oversees monetary policy. Mr. Guynn would get his vote on the panel in 1997. "One of our concerns was that we needed some continuity in the operational area," said Atlanta Fed chairman Leo Benatar, a printing company executive who headed the four-person search committee. Mr. Benatar pointed out that four top executives at the Atlanta Fed, including Mr. Forrestal, are scheduled to retire in January. He described Mr. Guynn as "a quick study" who, in his current post as first vice president, has helped Mr. Forrestal prepare for Open Market Committee meetings. "We believe that with a good (economic) research executive, Jack could perform very effectively in that area," Mr. Benatar said. "His stature - where he's been in the payments area - can only help him in his new job," said George C. White, a longtime Fed watcher and payment systems consultant based in Montclair, N.J. "I would think the appointment is simply recognition that Jack Guynn is a very competent individual." Sources said Mr. Guynn beat out at least one other finalist for the presidency: Robert Eisenbeis, a former Fed staff member and currently professor of finance at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Mr. Eisenbeis was reportedly an early favorite for the job. He currently is on the Shadow Financial Regulatory Committee, a group of academic Fed watchers. Mr. Eisenbeis declined to comment Monday on the Fed's selection process. But sources said his name, along with that of Mr. Guynn, was sent to the Federal Reserve Board in Washington for approval. Another reported candidate was Sheila Tschinkel, the Atlanta Fed's well-regarded director of research. Ms. Tschinkel, who would have been the first woman to head the Atlanta Fed, built up the bank's economic research capabilities to the point where it ranks among the best in the Fed system. She had announced in May that she would resign from the bank on Jan. 1. Sources close to the Atlanta Fed say Ms. Tschinkel had been lobbying for Mr. Forrestal's job since May. She did not return calls Monday. Mr. Guynn (pronounced "Gwin"), 52, has been chief operating officer since 1984. He oversees the operations of the Atlanta headquarters and the bank's five branches, in Birmingham, Ala., Miami, Nashville, Jacksonville, Fla., and New Orleans. Prior to being named to his current position, he was a senior vice president with responsibility for several major functional areas, including supervision and regulation, discount and credit, human resources, and legal. In 1994, Mr. Guynn was selected as chairman of the Federal Reserve System's new Financial Services Management Committee, which is responsible for developing and implementing an integrated business plan for reserve bank financial services as well as coordinating system-level activities that support the plan. The Atlanta Fed board assumes that some consolidation of services in the historically decentralized Federal Reserve system is inevitable, according to Mr. Benatar. "We believe Jack brings some things that will help in that area," he said. The Atlanta Fed operates the largest check-processing facility in the Federal Reserve system because of the size of its district - six states - and the region's strong economic growth. The Atlanta bank handled 2.9 billion checks last year, followed by the Chicago Fed at 1.6 billion. Nearly 30% of the bank's 2,200 employees work in the check-processing area. At a press briefing Monday, Mr. Guynn gave few clues as to how he would approach monetary policy issues or interest rates. "I don't come to the job, or to the FOMC process, with any strong leanings," he said. Mr. Forrestal announced that he would join the Atlanta law firm of Smith, Gambrell & Russell as chairman of its banking practices group with primary responsibility for the international area. International issues, also outside Mr. Guynn's experience, have grown in importance through the Atlanta Fed's supervision of Florida - a financial gateway to Latin America.
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