It was as if an alarm sounded in every corner office last June when Bank of New York Co. announced it was going to increase its reserves for credit card losses by $350 million.

All of a sudden, the banking industry was abuzz as Bank of New York and its understated chief executive, J. Carter Bacot, blew the whistle on a problem everyone knew was getting worse but few wanted to deal with.

It wasn't until bank stock prices swooned as a result of Bank of New York's action that bankers began to publicly address the problem of declining credit quality.

Dennis Shea, an analyst with Morgan Stanley, said Mr. Bacot's action "was quite prudent in hindsight."

It's wasn't the first time that the 63-year-old Mr. Bacot had shown his stuff as an industry trendsetter.

In the late 1980s, Mr. Bacot engineered one of the industry's first hostile takeovers when Bank of New York acquired Irving Bank Corp.

Despite the increased delinquencies in the his bank's credit card portfolio, Mr. Bacot said recently that he is still committed to the card business. "Credit cards continue to be an important source of revenue," he said.

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