NCNB's Hartman Seen As a Bright Tactician

DALLAS - In melding the tattered remains of First RepublicBank Corp. into NCNB Corp. over the past few years, Timothy P. Hartman has delivered a masterful performance. Now he has the opportunity for the encore of his career.

Although Mr. Hartman's tenure as chairman of NCNB's Texas unit has included some controversy, he is generally viewed as a decisive leader and a brilliant tactician. Now, as a result of the proposed merger between NCNB and C&S/Sovran Corp., he finds himself in an even more visible role.

For starters, Mr. Hartman will coordinate the NCNB side of the deal, working closely with his counterpart, C&S/Sovran president Dennis Bottorff. It appears that a central part of Mr. Hartman's job will be figuring out where NCNB can be pared back.

An Analytical Bent

For Mr. Hartman's career, the new job carries high stakes. It's no secret that NCNB has a history of promoting executives who boost profit at the company's outlying subsidiaries.

By all appearances, Mr. Hartman is well suited to the merger tasks ahead. An energetic, impatient, and articulate banker, he is known for his analytical bent and love of complex projects and issues. He made his mark at NCNB, for example, by securing an unprecedented Internal Revenue Service ruling three years ago that allowed NCNB $2.8 billion of tax breaks on the First Republic deal.

Through a slew of further acquisitions, Mr. Hartman more than doubled the NCNB Texas branch network to 290 locations, cementing the unit's status as the largest banking organization in the state.

Along the way, NCNB Texas became a mainstay of profitability for the parent company, accounting for almost all of the $128.4 million that NCNB Corp. earned in this year's first quarter.

A considerable amount of flak has been directed at Mr. Hartman during his Texas stay. Independent bankers have decried NCNB's tax breaks and aggressive pricing strategy on loans. And lawmakers and community groups have charged that NCNB Texas has been a stingy lender, bypassing poor neighborhoods and small businesses.

Frequent Washingtonian

But Mr. Hartman has been unflappable in his defense of NCNB's Texas operations, often asserting that NCNB got the tax breaks fair and square and that squabbles over loans were more a reflection of the slack Texas economy than of any strategy taken by NCNB Texas.

Though his place of residence officially is in Dallas, the executive actually spends only about half his time in Texas. Much of the remainder is spent in Washington, where Mr. Hartman, in his role of vice chairman of NCNB Corp., regularly discusses bank-reform proposals with lawmakers.

In previous assignments, Mr. Hartman has held companywide responsibility for technology, information, and operations functions - all experience that should pay off as he tries to merge NCNB with C&S/Sovran. In addition, Mr. Hartman also has had companywide jobs overseeing residential mortgages, retail finance, and bank card operations.

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