Eighteen months after Hibernia Corp. recruited a top executive from Huntington Bancshares to develop retail strategy, the New Orleans-based bank is reorganizing and replacing him.

Richard L. "Ike" Stage said in an interview that his departure last week was a mutual decision. His responsibilities, which included oversight of product development and product management, small-business, ATMs, and management of Hibernia's metropolitan New Orleans branches, will be divided among Randall E. Howard and two others.

Mr. Howard, the chief executive officer of Argentbank in Thibodaux, La., is expected to join Hibernia when it completes its acquisition of his $760 million-asset company. The deal is expected to close by yearend.

Though he had planned to remain with Hibernia "between two and four years," Mr. Stage, 52, said the company's desire to reorganize responsibilities and Mr. Howard's strong retail experience made this the right time for him to leave.

"I thought it was fair that I duck out now," Mr. Stage said. He will effectively retire from banking, though he said he intends to try to develop some European bank consulting work after returning with his family to Ohio.

The organizational changes at Hibernia are designed to strengthen the integration of retail marketing and support technology and integrate credit policy with many loan-servicing functions, said company officials.

"I believe it will take our development efforts to a new level," said Hibernia chief executive officer Stephen A. Hansel.

The changes will place all of the $9.7 billion-asset company's banking in southeast Louisiana-both retail and commercial-under Mr. Howard, who will assume the title of Southeast region chairman.

K. Kirk Domingos 3d, Hibernia's senior executive vice president in charge of operational support functions, will retain his title and assume coordination of various retail business lines and support units. He will lead a newly formed retail and technology area.

Hibernia's chief credit officer, Richard G. Wright, will assume responsibility for business banking loan servicing, other loan servicing, and special assets.

Hibernia has 228 banking locations throughout Louisiana and Texas.

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