For Fifth Third Bancorp chief executive Kevin Kabat, the opportunity to tap the Treasury Department's Capital Purchase Program brought a rare stability in a year where almost nothing went according to plan.

Getting to stability is only part of the journey to getting back to a sense of certainty, however. And in an interview last week, Mr. Kabat made clear that Fifth Third must sort through plenty before returning to the certainty needed to whet its appetite for risk. Though the company wants to lend and do acquisitions, capital preservation is job one for the $116 billion-asset Cincinnati company.

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