The early results look good, but there's lots of work ahead. That's the word from Joseph L. Boutin, chief executive of Merchants Bancshares in Burlington, Vt. For more than a year, Mr. Boutin has been guiding the $615 million-asset bank through a wrenching restructuring following years of losses brought on by real estate loans that went bad. Merchants' effort, including plans to offer more electronic banking options to customers, was the subject of a Management Strategies cover story in December.

"We certainly turned the corner in the fourth quarter, and we now feel we have sustainable earnings," said Mr. Boutin. "We've got our costs under control, we've got asset quality under control, and there will be continuing improvements there."

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