California Gov. Pete Wilson appointed accountant Conrad Hewitt as the state's bank superintendent.
The superintendent's job has been vacant since September, when James E. Gilleran resigned to become chief executive of Bank of San Francisco.
"Somebody with an accounting background has an advantage in the regulatory arena," said Mr. Gilleran, himself a former accountant who first encouraged Mr. Hewitt to go for the job. "He's taking over a superior department, and I believe he'll do a great job."
A Republican, Mr. Hewitt has been the managing partner for the San Francisco Bay Area office of Ernst & Young since 1986 and has been an active participant in corporate and civic organizations.
He started with Ernst & Young in 1962 in Los Angeles, where for five years he was a specialist in financial institutions.
He became managing partner for Ernst & Young in Hawaii in 1972, and in 1979 he was named Northwest managing partner.
Mr. Hewitt, 58, said he was nearing mandatory retirement age at Ernst & Young and need to look for a new job anyway.
"I've been around bankers my whole life," he said. "I come from a banking family and I worked at a bank in Peoria, Ill., before I joined the Air Force in 1958. As a regulator, much of what I'll be doing is the same things I've done auditing banks."
Mr. Hewitt said his first order of business will be to get up to speed legislatively. California will likely consider early opt-in legislation for interstate branching next year.
In addition to numerous professional association memberships, Mr. Hewitt is a founder and past president of the National Association of Corporate Directors. He's been a president of the Northern California chapter of Boy Scouts of America.
"With Con's broad experience in the financial community, I'm confident he will do an outstanding job in this important role," Gov. Wilson said in a prepared statement.
The superintendent is paid $102,799 a year, after a recent 5% salary cut by Gov. Wilson.
Mr. Hewitt will oversee 241 state-chartered banks. In recent years the job has been difficult. Though most of the state's banking industry is healthy, nearly three dozen banks have failed in California since 1991, all of them community banks and most of them in Southern California.
Mr. Hewitt predicted that while he is superintendent there will be more mergers and acquisitions than failures in California.