Fleet Financial Group has hired the head of PNC Bank Corp.'s Florida thrift to run private asset management in the state.

Gifford H. Hampton this week was named president and chief operating officer of Fleet Trust and Investment Services Co., Vero Beach, Fla. Mr. Hampton had been with PNC's Florida thrift since 1992, when he started as head of trust operations.

Mr. Hampton is the highest-ranking among several Florida trust executives to change jobs in recent weeks. Big out-of-state banks have entered Florida through acquisitions in the past several months, providing what many competitors say is an opportunity to attract new business.

To take advantage of that, many banks are staffing up.

"There is a sense with the takeovers of a lot of the Florida banks by largely North Carolina banks that the personal service level that had been offered ... is not what it had been," said Henry C. Barkhorn 3d, executive vice president of Fiduciary Trust Company International.

Fiduciary's Florida subsidiary named a new president this month, Teresa Valdes-Fauli Weintraub, who most recently worked for Northern Trust Corp.'s Florida bank.

Before working for PNC, Mr. Hampton ran private banking in Palm Beach for BankBoston Corp. In the 1980s he was a founding officer of Northern's Florida bank, which is now one of the largest asset managers in the state.

Boston-based Fleet manages $1.1 billion of assets in Florida through offices in Stuart and Naples. Marketing to wealthy retirees, vacation homeowners, and entrepreneurs, Mr. Hampton said he will continue to concentrate on investments, not other financial services.

"Most of the competition in Florida is trying to do a lot more in banking, lending, and the buzzword: private banking. Fleet is really focused on investment management," he said.

Other banks that have recently made changes in Florida include Delaware- based Wilmington Trust Corp., which named Curtis Lyman Jr., formerly of SunTrust Banks Inc.'s Orlando office, as president of its Florida subsidiary in Stuart.

Mr. Lyman hired two other local bankers: Kemp C. Stickney, formerly of BankBoston Corp., as a new business development executive; and Wesley T. Haller, a portfolio manager from PNC.

Similarly, Boston-based State Street Corp. hired Robert M. Bugbee and Allan P. Recht, vice president in sales, in its four-month-old investment management office in Naples. The two veterans of Barnett Bancshares were private client executives at NationsBank Corp. until resigning in late January.

Several executives said they are expanding staff to go after affluent customers, now that other institutions are in flux.

BankBoston recently pulled out of private banking Florida. Wachovia Corp. of Winston-Salem, N.C., bought Boca Raton-based First United Bancorp. in November, and is set to acquire Ameribank Bancshares of Hollywood, Fla.

The biggest deal in the state was the acquisition of Jacksonville-based Barnett by Charlotte, N.C.-based NationsBank.

"We have certainly worked like crazy to retain the best of the best from both the NationsBank and the Barnett side," said Tim Laney, president of NationsBank's Florida private client group, which will have between 25 to 30 offices once consolidation is complete.

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