FREDRIC N. TORDELLA President MTB Banking Corp., New York

It would be an understatement to say Fredric N. Tordella has had an unusual career path for a bank president.

Mr. Tordella began his career at his family's precious metals and foreign exchange company and then, four years ago, helped turn the firm into a bank.

Now known as MTB Banking Corp., the New York-based company is one of a handful of specialty banks supplying trade finance and other international services to small companies in the United States, Asia, and Latin America.

Two years ago, Mr. Tordella, 31, was promoted to president of the banking concern, which has $216 million in assets.

Although his ponytailed appearance may be unconventional for a banker, his notions of the industry are anything but.

"If you go back in history, you'll find that banks exist for two reasons: to safeguard deposits and facilitate production and trade," says Mr. Tordella. "A lot of them lost sight of that and tried to become everything to everybody."

MTB appears to be in the right business at the right time. It issued $45 million of trade-related letters of credit and bankers acceptances in 1991, compared with virtually none in 1990. What's more, Mr. Tordella expects volume to triple this year.

"Trade business is growing just as the big banks are cutting back on credit," he says. "There's no lack of demand out there."

But Mr. Tordella's next goal is to develop a private-banking business.

The son of a former Italian resistance fighter who moved to the United States in the late 1940s and founded MTB, Mr. Tordella was born in Jersey City and raised in Allendale, N.J., where he still lives.

After attending Marquette University in Milwaukee, he joined MTB in 1981 and served stints in every department on his way to the president's office.

While many individuals are eager to leave the banking industry, it's encouraging to see savvy players like Fredric Tordella and MTB coming in.

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