The challenge of building a private banking operation from scratch exhilarates Leslie E. Bains.

The 25-year banking veteran welcomes the chance to build a domestic private banking unit for Republic National Bank, which already has an established international private banking unit that accounts for one-third of overall revenues.

"I want to build on that strength, and I want to do that same thing domestically," she said during an interview in her office overlooking Fifth Avenue and the New York Public Library.

Over the next few months, Ms. Bains will put new hires in place, temporarily move the fledgling unit across Fifth Avenue while the private,banking offices are "stripped to the cement" and rebuilt, and evaluate technology that win bolster the quality of service to customers.

Can |Design from Scratch'

"I've not inherited any large, monolithic system, so I can pretty much design from scratch what will make the private bank most effective," she said.

When she's done, the domestic private bank will have about 200 employees in New York, Florida, and California, she said. Her goal is to meet the "three C's" - confidence, continuity, and communication.

Customers already have confidence in Republic New York Corp. as an institution, she said. The $36 billion-asset company's reputation was a major reason she accepted the challenge of building a new unit. You can't go out and buy financial strength and integrity," she said.

Another C, continuity, is crucial to customer's happiness. To build a staff that will be dedicated to the private bank, Ms. Bains is planning to raid private bankers from other institutions. Already, she's getting two resumes a day, she said.

Twenty-something Harvard MBAs are unlikely to be hired. "I don't want them learning, skills on our clients," she said and added: "I don't like to have children managing money."

A more experienced staff will help minimize turnover, Ms. Bains believes. Continuity will help build relationships with customers and help with the third C, communication.

The bank is targeting those with more than $5 million, and such customers dislike having to explain their situations to new employees, Ms. Bains said.

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