WASHINGTON -- George L. Davis, named president and chief executive officer last week at embattled First American Bankshares Inc., sees the post as the latest of many turnaround opportunities in his career.

"I've had a fair amount of experience in trouble situations," said the 57-year-old veteran of Citicorp and First Chicago Corp. "Difficulty doesn't bother me."

The troubles at Washington's largest banking company, with $9 billion in deposits and 200 branches, stem from the area's real-estate-driven economic downturn and from connections with scandal-ridden Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

Image of a Pawn

Since the summer, First American has been working to shake its image as a pawn of Luxembourg-based BCCI, which the Federal Reserve Board found to have been in violation of U.S. banking laws through a secret shareholding in First American.

BCCI was closed in July when regulators in several countries alleged a massive international fraud.

Mr. Davis said he was trying to drum up work as a strategic consultant for troubled banks when he asked First American chairman Nicholas deB. Katzenbach to hire him last August. Mr. Katzenbach had succeeded Washing lawyer Clark Clifford at the helm of First American.

"I came down and knocked on Katzenbach's door and said I thought I could help," Mr. Davis told reporters last week. "A lot of the things I've done have been fairly difficult assignments that were not bread and butter."

Consultants Line Up

Mr. Katzenbach said consultants were lining up six deep at his door, but prospectiv chief executive officers were scarce. Though his impression was that Mr. Davis really wanted a consulting assignment, Mr. Katzenbach saw him as a strong CEO candidate.

"We felt his proven ability as a leader would be extremely important to getting this bank through difficult times," Mr. Katzenbach said.

Among the challenges Mr. Davis faces are reversing a six-quarter string of losses and stanching net deposit outflows, which reached $1 billion in the third quarter.

Mr. Davis began his banking career in 1958. He had risen to senior vice president in charge of Citibank's national division in 1981 when he was recruited by First Chicago, where he spent six years.

At the Chicago bank, Mr. Davis became executive vice president and a partner in the global corporate bank. He was considered heir apparent to chairman Barry Sullivan when he resigned in October 1986, citing disagreements with management.

Mr. Davis returned to Citicorp in 1987 as group executive for North American corporate finance, but quit in July 1990 for similar reasons.

"We just had a philosophical disagreement as to how to run things. Let's just leave it at that," Mr. Davis said last week.

At First American, Mr. Davis succeeded Jack W. Beddow, who was planning to retire as an executive vice president last August when he was pressed into service as president and CEO.

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