John A Allison, who called himself an "old-timer" in the banking industry this year, said Wednesday that he will retire as BB&T Corp.'s chief executive at yearend.

Mr. Allison, 60, will remain the $137 billion-asset Winston-Salem, N.C., company's chairman through the end of next year. Kelly King, the chief operating officer, will succeed Mr. Allison as the CEO, though it is unclear whether Mr. King, 59, is in line to succeed Mr. Allison as the chairman.

BB&T did not immediately name a new COO.

Mr. Allison, who has led BB&T since 1989, is the longest-serving CEO of a major U.S. banking company. During his tenure, BB&T's pursuit of acquisitions - it has bought about 60 banking and thrift companies - has raised eyebrows on Wall Street at times, especially when First Virginia Banks Inc. was bought in July 2003 for $3 billion. By the end of that year, Mr. Allison had declared that BB&T would take a two-year break from dealmaking.

Though BB&T re-emerged as a buyer in December 2005, announcing a deal for Main Street Banks Inc. in Atlanta, it did not resume the frantic pace of previous years. Since then it has bought just three banking companies, most recently Coastal Financial Corp. in Myrtle Beach, S.C., its May of last year.

BB&T has avoided many of the major stumbling blocks that have hit other regional banking companies, and it is one of the few that have raised their dividend payment. Mr. Allison has repeatedly credited a culture that avoided "the crazy stuff," such as negative amortization mortgages, collateralized debt obligations, and big exposure to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In a press release Wednesday, Mr. Allison said Mr. King would continue in the same "strategic direction" once he becomes the CEO.

"There is no reason to change course," Mr. Allison said. "Our mission, service culture, operating strategy, and values have only been reaffirmed during the current down cycle in the economy. BB&T's best days have always been ahead of us."

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.