CS First Boston Corp.'s director of financial institutions, Richard E. Thornburgh, stepped aside earlier this month to become the company's chief financial officer.

In his place, Michael Martin and Jonathan Plutzik, currently managing directors in the group, will co-head the unit.

Mr. Thornburgh has headed the group since 1989, when it was known as depository institutions. He guided the unit through the tumultuous days of the early '90s when the company was rocked with defections, notably Bruce Wasserstein and Joseph Perella, the renowned co-heads of mergers and acquisitions who left to start their own firm.

Though most of the defections hit other areas of the investment bank, some bankers and one analyst did leave the financial institutions group.

But the group was aided by the arrival of Thomas Hanley from Salomon Brothers, one of the industry's top analysts. Analysts are often critical to attracting advisory and underwriting work.

In 1993, the firm advised Keycorp on its merger with Society Corp., propelling the group to second in the 1993 bank M&A rankings.

While its activity fell of in 1994, the firm has landed two of 1995's biggest deals.

It represented National Australia Bank in its $1.5 billion acquisition of Michigan National Corp., and most recently represented U.S. Bancorp. in its announced $1.6 billion purchase of West One Bancorp.

"Thornburgh was the centerpiece of CS First Boston's success in its banking and financial institutions advisory practice," said Philip Earlanger, managing director with Lehman Brothers' Los Angeles office. Mr. Earlanger knew Mr. Thornburgh from his days in First Boston's West Coast office before he was appointed head of the financial institutions group.

"It's generally perceived that Dick Thornburgh was the centerpiece of their success in the bank and thrift M&A practice," he added. "And it will be a big loss for them."

Under Mr. Thornburgh, a twenty-year veteran of the firm, the role of CFO will be broadened to consolidate financial control, compliance, and risk management functions.

As the new co-heads of the financial institutions unit, Mr. Martin is expected to focus on banks, and Mr. Plutzik on insurance companies and other nonbank financial companies.

CS First Boston is a unit of CS Holdings, Zurich.

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