Praise from Above

Who says federal officials hate bankers?President Obama singled out Lynn Ozer, a vice president at Susquehanna Bank, for personal praise this week, saying that she and the Lititz, Pa., institution are doing a "good job" at lending to small businesses.

Ozer and two of her business customers were invited to the White House on Monday, as the administration unveiled plans to stimulate small-business lending by buying securitized pools of Small Business Administration loans. Under the plan, the government guarantee on SBA loans would be raised to 90%.

Susquehanna's customers were among a group of small-business owners who participated in a roundtable discussion with Obama about lending.

Ozer's response to the president's encomiums? "Beyond awesome," she said. "I've been doing this for 30 years, but this is the first time I've been able to meet and talk to a president about my work — it was mind-blowing."

Ozer, a director of the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, took a moment after the event to tell Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that initiatives aimed at funding small businesses are a "step in the right direction." And she capitalized on the rare opportunity to offer advice about how to improve the SBA program.

Geithner, who is currently juggling other projects, including rescuing the economy — and possibly his job — was polite but noncommital. "I'll keep that in mind," he told Ozer.

Back to School

John Allison's foray into higher eduction was all but inevitable.Long viewed as much as an academic as a banker, the retired chief executive of BB&T Corp. made it official Tuesday by announcing he will join the faculty at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., as a finance professor in mid-April. He will start teaching classes this fall.

"I've had a long-term interest in education, because the only truly natural resource is the human mind," said Allison, who retired as the CEO on Dec. 31 but will remain BB&T's chairman through the end of this year. "This is a natural evolution for me."

An ardent supporter of free markets, Allison said he wants to share his practical knowledge of taking BB&T from a rural bank to a $152 billion-asset regional firm during his 20 years at the helm.

"I hope to develop a course around leadership in a very broad context," he said.

Steve Reinemund, the former PepsiCo chairman and CEO who last year became the dean of Wake Forest's business school, said he had set his sights on Allison ever since the banker announced his retirement last fall.

"I was the first one in his office when I heard he was retiring, and I just kept bugging him until he said yes," Reinemund said.

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