First Florida Taps OCC Veteran

First Florida Banks Inc. said it has appointed Paul M. Homan, a former senior official in the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, as its president and chief operating officer.

First Florida announced the selection of Mr. Homan late Tuesday, culminating a five-month search. The previous president, John Wulbern, took early retirement in March as the financial condition of the Tampa-based bank continued to deteriorate.

Mr. Homan will report to A. Bronson Thayer, 51, First Florida's chairman and chief executive.

No Newcomer to Bank Problems

Mr. Homan, also 51, is considered an expert on problem banks. He worked at the Comptroller's office for 18 years, most recently as senior adviser and policy group member. Mr. Homan was instrumental in developing the first interagency agreements on capital adequacy guidelines and uniform rating systems for all federally insured banks.

Mr. Homan also worked as an executive vice president with Chicago-based Continental Illinois Corp. from 1985 and 1987 and chairman and chief executive of Nevada National Bank, Reno, from 1983 to 1985.

First Florida lost $5.5 million in the second quarter, its third consecutive quarter of red ink that now totals nearly $50 million. The company, with $5.8 billion in assets, has been hard hit by the downturn in the state's real estate markets; its ratio of nonperforming assets to total loans and foreclosed properties stands at a high 6.2%.

Profitability Expected to Return Soon

Mr. Homan said Wednesday that his "only mandate" is to return the bank to profitability, which he said could begin as early as the fourth quarter.

"The whole industry right now is putting a premium on credibility and confidence, and Paul has an abundance of both," said Wayne Rushton, deputy to the Comptroller who worked with Mr. Homan in Washington.

For First Florida, the appointment of Mr. Homan seemingly ends a period of drift that began in March when Mr. Wulbern retired and several other senior executives were dismissed.

"It is always good to fill a vacuum, and I think the company might have lacked a sense of direction," said Timothy G. Rayl, banking analyst with the brokerage firm Southeast Research Partners in Boca Raton.

Mr. Homan began his career with the Comptroller's Office in 1966, when he became a bank examiner in San Francisco. He worked his way up to senior deputy comptroller for bank supervision before leaving to head Nevada National in 1982.

Richard V. Fitzgerald, a former chief counsel to the OCC and now a partner with the Washington law firm of Muldoon Murphy & Faucett, described Mr. Homan as a "bank examiner's bank examiner."

Mr. Homan returned to Washington last year when he accepted the position of senior advisor to Comptroller Robert L. Clarke.

Bill Atkinson in Washington contributed to this report.

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