CFO Knockout

What do boxers and chief financial officers have in common? Both professions tend to have very short career paths, according to two studies, but CFOs throw in the towel first.Despite the punishing blows endured in the ring, the typical boxer at the professional level lasts five years, according to a 2005 study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The average CFO stays on the job for 4.8 years, according to a study to be released Oct. 1 by the Hinsdale, Ill., executive recruiter Crist Kolder Associates.

The Crist Kolder study, which looked at more than 600 of the nation's largest companies, found that CFO turnover hit its highest point in 13 years last year. The number of companies that lost their finance chiefs rose 39% from 2006, to 128.

The financial sector, led by a downturn in the banking industry, had one of the highest turnover rates last year, at 22%, the Crist Kolder study found. Only the transportation and health care industries had higher rates.

And that trend is continuing this year. Fifth Third Bancorp, First Horizon National Corp., and National City Corp. are looking for new CFOs, and both Wachovia Corp. and Bank of Hawaii Corp. have filled the position in the past few months.

Wachovia hired David Zwiener, an executive from Carlyle Group, as its CFO this month. Mr. Zwiener, 54, will join Wachovia on Oct. 1 and will succeed Thomas Wurtz, who stepped down this year following concerns about risk management controls. In July, Bank of Hawaii selected Kent Lucien as its CFO. Mr. Lucien is a member of the bank's board and the former CFO of C. Brewer & Co. Ltd. in Honolulu. He succeeded Dan Stevens, who resigned in April for personal reasons.

Recycling Stories

Wachovia got a unique reminder of its tumultuous summer last weekend when The Wall Street Journal debuted its glossy weekend magazine.The cover featured a model wearing a dress fashioned out of the paper's print edition. The most visible headline covered Ken Thompson's June 1 ouster as Wachovia's chief executive.

It was unclear how the paper decided which front page to use. In a video posted on its Web site, Roland Mouret, the stylist who designed the dress, said his biggest challenge was keeping "quality to the paper," which he addressed by folding it carefully and mounting it on silk fabric. Efforts to reach Tina Gaudoin, the magazine's editor in chief, were unsuccessful. A spokeswoman for Wachovia said she would not comment.

Thomas Roskelly, the creative director for the Portsmouth, R.I., brand consulting firm Roskelly Inc., said it is likely the paper chose that page for its aesthetics rather than content.

Though having Mr. Thompson's ouster splashed across the publication was embarrassing, Mr. Roskelly said it could have been much worse for Wachovia. "The company's name and logo would have been more widely identifiable than the CEO's face."

What's 3 Months?

Dowd Ritter, Regions Financial Corp.'s chairman, president, and CEO, put a little bit of pressure last week on the managers of its Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc.Mr. Ritter was the luncheon speaker at a conference the brokerage unit hosted. Speaking off the cuff, he gave Morgan Keegan credit for posting record revenue in 2008. When he realized that more than three months remain in the year, he gamely turned his attention to John Carson, who became Morgan Keegan's CEO in April.

"I'm going ahead and giving you credit for this year," Mr. Ritter said to Mr. Carson, who was in the audience. "There is no time like when you are at the podium to put a little pressure" on employees.

Mr. Ritter did note that unit has "started off great" this year, posting $700 million of revenue for the first two quarters. The brokerage unit posted $1.3 billion of revenue last year.

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