JACKSON, Miss. -- Whether he's huffing through the Himalayas or sweating his way across the Sahara, E.B. "Bud" Robinson always completes his strenuous marathons. Next to what he faces in his working life, the exotic tests of endurance often seem a relief.

Mr. Robinson is chairman and chief executive of Deposit Guaranty Corp., a Mississippi banking company with $4.8 billion of assets. In spite of improving earnings, the bank faces sluggish loan demand that presents a challenge as great as any race.

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