When the board of Kentucky's Trans Financial Inc. this week made Vince Berta president, it formalized the complete makeover the company has experienced in the last six months.

Bowling Green-based Trans Financial on Dec. 16 appointed Mr. Berta president and chief executive of the $1.8 billion-asset bank. Mr. Berta, senior vice president and chief financial officer since 1993, had been chief executive of the bank on an interim basis since Douglas Lester was fired on June 4.

Since then, Mr. Berta has been methodically dismantling many of the bells and whistles his former boss had assembled in his 12 years at the helm.

"My goal is to continue to build shareholder value in the organization and do that with a very, very focused approach to delivering financial services," said the 38-year-old Mr. Berta.

Mr. Lester was dismissed after his efforts to diversify into nonbank business lines helped put the bank $5.8 million into the red in the second quarter. Mr. Berta's job is to refocus Trans Financial on its core banking activities.

A banking analyst hailed the move, saying that Mr. Berta has a cost- cutting, bottom-line focus that is an antidote to Mr. Lester's approach. "He's the right kind of guy for them at this point," the analyst said.

Mr. Berta dropped Trans Financial's travel, venture capital, and human resource subsidiaries; sold off a corporate jet; and is on the verge of selling the recently completed 30,000-square-foot corporate headquarters. It included a wet bar in what would have been Mr. Lester's office.

The bank's work force also has been slashed by 10%, Mr. Berta said.

"We're very pleased with our refocusing efforts," he said. "The bulk of it has been accomplished."

The bank now is trying to bolster its corporate banking practice by promoting cash management and other services, Mr. Berta said.

The bank is also strengthening its retail banking division. It hired a new executive to bring more of a sales focus to its two-year-old call center, Mr. Berta said.

And rather than continue Mr. Lester's efforts to crack the urban markets, the bank will now concentrate its energies on rural and suburban areas, Mr. Berta said. To that end, Trans Financial has closed loan origination offices in Louisville, Ky., and Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tenn.

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