Mack I. Whittle Jr. is one of those rare bankers who accepts a dose of risk as part of doing business.

Ten years ago, Mr. Whittle left a comfortable post at a predecessor of NationsBank Corp. to create a new bank, Carolina First Corp., in Greenville, S.C. In a decade, his bank has amassed $1.5 billion of assets and captured 4% of the state's market share.

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