For the third time in two years, a high-level executive is leaving Wachovia Corp.

The news has analysts scratching their heads.

W. Doug King, consumer services chief, announced last week that he plans to retire this summer. Anthony L. Furr, former chairman and CEO of Wachovia Bank of South Carolina, left in January 1995, and credit card head Jerry D. Craft in May 1994.

"You traditionally don't see these kinds of personnel moves at Wachovia," said John A. Pandtle, with Robinson-Humphrey Co.

In a telephone interview Thursday, the 57-year-old Mr. King said was leaving to seek new opportunities.

"It's sort of like: mission accomplished," Mr. King said. "We've done a lot of strategic thinking and planning over the last couple of years, and we're at a point where we're going to start implementing those programs. So maybe it's time to get some other people involved."

Mr. King, who had been bumping against a mandatory age-60 retirement provision at Wachovia, said he might consider another position in banking, but probably not in a territory currently served by Wachovia.

During his 33-year career at Wachovia, Mr. King had been instrumental in developing its telephone call center, debit card, smart card, home banking, and investment-counselor programs.

Wachovia said Mr. King's duties will be split between two other executives: holding company comptroller John C. McLean Jr. and Stanhope A. Kelly, currently central region head for Wachovia Bank of North Carolina in Raleigh.

Mr. McLean will take charge of Wachovia's consumer credit and insurance division; Mr. Kelly will serve as head of the consumer banking division in Winston-Salem.

Wachovia, based in Winston Salem, N.C., has experienced an unprecedented degree of ferment and change since L.M. "Bud" Baker Jr. succeeded John G. Medlin Jr. as CEO in January 1994. Mr. Baker has scrambled the company's organizational charts; sold off longtime Wachovia specialty units such as student loan and mortgage servicing; and invested in a massive technological upgrade.

Mr. McLean, who will take over Mr. King's responsibility for Wachovia's credit card, mortgage, sales finance, and insurance service units, said the personnel change does not portend any shift of direction in those business lines.

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