Paul L. Hill knows something about consolidation in the banking industry: His bank has been bought out from under him three times.
It just happened to Mr. Hiss in his current post as president and chief executive of Hibernia National Bank in Texas, a subsidiary of Hibernia Corp., New Orleans. He expects to stay until yearend, when Comerica Inc. of Detroit is to take over.
Hibernia announced the sale of its Texas unit last month, just two months after Mr. Hill became CEO.
Mr. Hill, 56, had previously spent two years in Miami as chief financial officer of Southeast Banking Corp., which was sold to First Union Corp., Charlotte, N.C., in a September 1991 federally assisted takeover.
Before that, he lasted 17 years at InterFirst Corp. of Dallas before it merged in 1987 with crosstown rival RepublicBank Corp. to form First RepublicBank Corp., which failed in 1988.
"I was the chief financial officer of InterFirst," Mr. Hill said. "First Republic had its own, and you only need one CFO."
Mr. Hill has become nonchalant about such situations. He took the Hibernia-Texas job at the invitation of Hibernia's chief executive Stephen A. Hansel, knowing full well the plan was to sell the organization. His only objective now is to continue running the bank and help with a smooth transition to Comerica.
Some analysts have speculated that Hibernia might find a job for Mr. Hill in Louisiana, but he declines to discuss potential opportunities.
Mr. Hill's work at Southeast brought him to the attention of Mr. Hansel, who was chief financial officer at Barnett Banks Inc. in Jacksonville for six years before joining Hibernia. Mr. Hill said he got to know Mr. Hansel when Barnett was conducting due diligence on Southeast, preparing to bid on the failing bank.
A Straight Shooter and a Good Guy
Soon after Mr. Hansel took command at Hibernia in March, he called Mr. Hill in Fort Worth, where Mr. Hill had relocated following Southeast's demise.
"I asked Paul to come to New Orleans, and we visited at some length," Mr. Hansel said. "I knew him to be a straight shooter and a good guy. I thought that as a native Texan, somebody I knew to be calm and efficient and work well under pressure, that he would be a good addition to our team."
Douglas E. Ebert, Southeast's former chief executive, is also a fan of Mr. Hill's, crediting him with realigning Southeast's balance sheet and investment portfolio and helping formulate expense control programs.
"Paul has a thorough understanding of the numbers themselves, but more than that how the numbers work and come together for the overall performance of the company," said Mr. Ebert, who is now in a temporary post of his own as president and chief executive of Lincoln Financial Corp., Fort Wayne, Ind. Lincoln is currently restructuring in order to find a buyer.
Mr. Ebert also cited Mr. Hill's "integrity," a plainspoken willingness to admit he didn't know the answer to every question. "He's not going to try to give you a line," Mr. Ebert said.
Mr. Hill's years at Southeast were difficult, he said. Because of the bank's plight, he and his wife never bought a house in Miami.
But it wasn't as traumatic as his last four years at InterFirst, "It's sad to see people you've known for 10 years suddenly put in a position where their lifetime dreams and ambitions are either drastically changed or put on hold," Mr. Hill said.
Mr. Hill, a certified public accountant, earned a bachelor's and a master's degree in business administration at Texas Tech University. In addition to his banking jobs, he served as senior vice president and treasurer of Fort Worth-based Tandy Corp. from 1987 to 1989.