JOHN A. WILLIAMS, THE NEW chief executive of troubled People's Savings Bank of Brockton. has seen failure firsthand.

Before joining the Massachusetts bank last summer as chief financial officer, he worked at Boston's Olympic International Bank and Trust. Six months into his tenure, it went belly up. Before that. he was at Boston's Capitol Bank and Trust. Three months into the job, Capitol was seized. "When I walked into those banks I knew they had problems. but I thought they were salvageable," said the former Boston accountant. "That experience has been a real plus for me -- I know how to deal with problems, unfortunately."

Mr. Williams has dealt with his share of difficulties at People's. The $172 million-asset bank is still suffering from New England's deep recession, which has lingered in Brockton, a shoe-manufacturing city 15 miles south of Boston.

Further complicating the bank's prospects has been the indictment of Mr. Williams' predecessor, Roger A. Kibart, in May. The bank president was charged by a federal grand jury with lying to get the bank to approve a loan to a customer who bought property owned by Mr. Kibart and another bank officer.

Mr. Williams became acting CEO when Mr. Kibart took a leave of absence following the indictment. A lawyer for Mr. Kibart denied the allegations made by U.S. Attorney A. John Pappalardo.

Despite the muddied waters, the bank has made good progress: At midyear, nonperforming assets were $11.8 million, down by almost half from their all-time high of $22.2 million at the end of 1991.

"We're coming out of the doldrums," said the 38-year-old executive. Still, the bank has nonperforming assets totaling 6.8% of all assets.

The bank has turned a profit each of the last four quarters, following 12 straight losing quarters. At midyear its return on average assets was 0.229% still way below the national average for community banks -- roughly 1.25%.

The bulk of the bank's soured loans were in multifamily housing mortgages held mainly by investors. Such loans accounted for roughly $7 million of the $10.4 million whittled from the bank's nonperformers over the past two years.

Making Loans Easier to Get

People's has refinanced the, nonperforming multifamily loans and made them available to owner-occupants. To qualify lower-income borrowers, the bank -- in conjunction with its marketing agency -- developed a home ownership assistance program that features low down payments.

Under the program, the bank permits borrowers to put down as little as 2%. The first few payments of the loan are then made against the principal, until the down payment actually equals 5% of the loan.

People's received a vote of confidence late last year when Fidelity Investments guru Peter Lynch bought a 5.9% stake in the bank. Following Mr. Lynch's personal investment, the bank's shares inched up from a low of $1.375 to as high as $6.

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