Ex-Comptroller Conover Gets His Own Bank to Steer

During his years as comptroller of the currency, C. Todd Conover was an activist on a national scale. In his latest venture, all his considerable energy will be focused on one Colorado bank.

Mr. Conover was recently named president and chief executive of Denver-based Central Bancorp., a $1.75 billion-asset company owned by First Bank System, Minneapolis.

As comptroller in 1981-85, Mr. Conover wrestled with the failure of Continental Illinois Corp., presided over deregulation of bank deposit interest rates, and permitted creation of "nonbank banks" to press lawmakers to overhaul banking laws.

Shifting Gears

"I've been an agent for change all my life," said Mr. Conover, who is 51. "I think strategically, and I care about the numbers."

Bringing that intensity to bear at Central is his new mission.

Central earned $11 million in 1990, a soft 0.63% return on assets. That's way short of the performance sought by First Bank's chairman, John Grundhofer; he's aiming for earnings "in the top 10% of our peer group nationally."

Mr. Conover has also been asked to lead an expansion in Colorado. On the day he joined Central, the bank agreed to acquire the failed Capitol Federal Savings, Aurora, increasing the number of banking locations from 17 to 35.

"There's a commitment on the part of First Bank to become a significant player in Colorado," Mr. Conover said.

Along the way, he will be converting Central's banking offices, each of which is now formally a separate bank, into branches, taking advantage of recent Colorado legislation that phases out decades-old unit banking laws.

In addition to having been a regulator, Mr. Conover has held numerous consulting positions; the most recent was national director of bank consulting for KPMG Peat Marwick.

A Narrower Horizon

Also, he's seen a financial institution from the inside before. Mr. Conover started his career at Seattle-First National Bank and briefly was chief financial administrator of Equitec Financial Group, Oakland, Calif.

If there's one downside to the new job, it's that the outspoken Mr. Conover will have fewer chances to mount his soapbox.

Accustomed to probing the workings of other banks in his role as a consultant and to the frequent Washington appearances flowing from his stature as a former top regulator, Mr. Conover now must keep his hands on the wheel and his eyes on the road.

"My priorities are clear," Mr. Conover said, "and they are right here at Central, not running off wherever to express my views."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.