Giant banks are, well, giant banks. But the role for the regionals is not quite clear—in businesses which require scale, they're tiny compared with the behemoths. And many are a bit clumsy when vying with the little guys for business from middle-market and smaller companies. That means that Thomas E. Hoaglin has a difficult challenge ahead of him. He's the new CEO of Columbus, OH- based Huntington Bancshares, a company that until February had been ruled by the iron fist of 67-year-old Frank Wobst.
Under Wobst, the $29 billion-asset bank had not been prospering. Its price-to-earnings ratio on March 8 was 11.64, less than 60% of the industry average. Its earnings performance last year was disappointing, to say the least. It earned 46 cents in the first quarter, 44 cents in the second, 20 cents in the third and 30 cents in the fourth. In mid-January of this year its stock took a steep plunge and it was then that Hoaglin's appointment was announced.Clearly, the 51-year-old Hoaglin has a tough job ahead of him. But he also must deal with Wobst, who will be watching over Hoaglin's shoulder. Although Wobst, at 67, is past the ordinary retirement age of 65, he plans to continue as chairman for another two years, to give Hoaglin "guidance and historical perspective," according to a spokesman.That indicates young Hoaglin's freedom to act will be restricted. Despite his youth, Hoaglin's credentials are strong. He grew up professionally at another Columbus-based banking company, Bank One, under the tutelage of John McCoy. He spent almost 30 years at Bank One, a period during which it prospered as a rapidly growing and highly profitable regional bank. Last year Hoaglin joined Amsouth Bancorp in Birmingham, where he was vice chairman.Hoaglin addressed the Wobst issue, and said he would rely on Wobst for guidance. But Hoaglin insisted that he'll be running the show. "I am here with the full authority to run this organization," he told the Columbus Dispatch.

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