Hoskins' Leap to Huntington In Keeping with His Bold Past

W. Lee Hoskins gained a reputation for audacity as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. But forsaking the post to become a top banking officer may be his boldest move yet.

Though never an operations manager at a private banking company, Mr. Hoskins recently was named vice chairman of Huntington Bancshares Inc., Columbus, Ohio. He also will be chief executive of the company's lead bank.

This leap by a former freshman basketball letterman at UCLA seems in character. At the Cleveland Fed, Mr. Hoskins was known for his spirited campaigns in support of ultratight monetary policy, reducing the deposit insurance safety net for banks, and liberalizing bank charters.

Move Catches Others Off Guard

But the move caught even some of his fans off guard. "I was somewhat surprised Mr. Hoskins was brought in at that level, given that he has no experience in running a private bank," said Fred A. Cummings, a bank analyst at McDonald & Co., Cleveland.

Mr. Hoskins is unfazed, however, saying his four years at the helm of the Cleveland Fed gave him ample experience in operating a big financial institution. "I've had some good opportunities to test my management skills," he said.

The 50-year-old executive said it was thrilling to be in a top Federal Reserve post and to help shape monetary policy. But when Huntington came calling, Mr. Hoskins said, he realized there was more he wanted to do during the prime years of his career.

"I felt the calendar was speeding up on me, and I wanted the opportunity to manage in the private sector," Mr. Hoskins said.

In making the move to Huntington, Mr. Hoskins is joining a solid institution that nevertheless is seemingly being outstripped by faster-growing Ohio rivals.

With competitors such as Banc One Corp., Columbus, and Society Corp., Cleveland, expanding rapidly, Huntington is seen in some quarters as needing a more aggressive strategy.

Indeed, a big part of Mr. Hoskins' new job will be winning new customers for the bank, a task to which he appears well-suited.

A former chief economist and director of corporate affairs for Pittsburgh National Bank, the poised Mr. Hoskins is leaving a Fed post in which he made many business contacts. "I've met as many people in the past four years as in the previous 10," he said.

The outspoken executive has no plan to retire from the pulpit. He still feels strongly that deposit insurance should be curtailed and that banks, in turn, should be allowed to compete in any financial services arena they choose.

He Will Continue to Express His Viewpoint

"So long as taxpayers aren't made to foot the bill, banks should be able to do anything they think will help shareholders," declared Mr. Hoskins. He indicated he would press this view at industry association meetings and with lawmakers.

An avid skier who says he hasn't missed a winter outing for a decade, Mr. Hoskins also cites trout fishing and travel as hobbies that get his mind off work.

The avocation that figures most strongly in Mr. Hoskins' life, however, is reading, and he plainly is not about to forsake his passion for intellectual pursuits. So if there is such a thing as a scholarly approach to furthering shareholder interests, Mr. Hoskins seems bound to find it.

"You can be a banker and still pursue intellectual interests," he said. "And it's important to keep up in the world of ideas."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.