Hoskins to Leave Fed Post For Key Role at Huntington

W. Lee Hoskins, the controversial and outspoken president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, on Monday was named vice chairman of Huntington Bancshares Inc. and chief executive of the company's lead bank.

Mr. Hoskins, an economist who spent four years in the Fed post, said the Huntington assignment fulfills his ambition to "manage a significant private organization" in a competitive environment.

He will assume his duties in November.

Huntington Bancshares, based in Columbus, Ohio, has $12.3 billion in assets. Its banking subsidiaries have 262 offices in Ohio, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Huntington earned $55.2 million during the first half of this year, for an annualized return on assets of almost 1%.

Approbation from Analysts

Analysts reacted favorably to Mr. Hoskins' appointment. With his reputation and good standing in the business community, he will be a magnet for business at Huntington, said Elmer Meszaros, a banking analyst with Roulston & Co., Cleveland. "This gives Huntington a very credible individual who can open some doors," he said.

Huntington's stock was trading at $19.375 late Monday, down 25 cents.

Mr. Hoskins, 50, will replace William J. Williams as chief executive of Huntington National Bank in Columbus, and T. Carl Alderman as president. He will report to Frank Wobst, 57, chairman and chief executive of the holding company.

Mr. Williams, 63, will remain chairman of the lead bank until his retirement next year. Mr. Alderman, 47, was named a vice chairman of the lead bank, which has $9.5 billion in assets.

Legacy of Zeal at the Fed

Mr. Hoskins is best known for his zealous advocacy of zero inflation, limits on deposit insurance, and abolishing "too big to fail," the federal prohibition on closing big failed banks because of their perceived importance to the economy.

"It is doubtful Lee will be replaced by someone whose views are as distinctive," said William Wallace, former first vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Mr. Wallace said he was not surprised by Mr. Hoskins' move, given the fairly limited role that regional Fed presidents play in setting monetary policy.

"He's generated considerable attention in every job he's occupied, and I'm sure it will be no different at Huntington," said Mr. Wallace.

Prior to becoming a Fed president, Mr. Hoskins worked as chief economist and director of corporate affairs for Pittsburgh National Bank, the lead subsidiary of PNC Financial Corp. He began his career at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, where he rose vice president and director of research.

His departure from the Cleveland Fed is similar to that of his predecessor, Karen Horn, who resigned the presidency to become chairman and chief executive of Bank One Cleveland, a unit of Columbus-based Banc One Corp.

Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve System, applauded Mr. Hoskins' performance in a letter sent to the Cleveland Fed's officers, calling him an "extremely effective leader" who helped make the regional bank a top performer.

What Mr. Hoskins' departure means to the ideological balance in the Federal Reserve System will become more clear after a successor is named.

But his absence seems bound to weaken the hand of those favoring tight monetary policy, said Jerry Jordan, chief economist of First Interstate Bancorp, Los Angeles.

PHOTO : W. Lee Hoskins Shifting to private sector

PHOTO : William J. Williams Making room for Hoskins

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