SunTrust Banks Inc., in a move to further centralize its management structure, announced Wednesday the creation of four vice chairman positions and a series of other executive promotions.

L. Phillip Humann, chairman and chief executive officer of the Atlanta-based banking company, said in a statement that the changes are about "ensuring that our senior management resources are sharply focused on implementing the organization's broad strategic plans."

SunTrust has been trying to streamline the administration of its far-flung operations in recent years. The company was long organized as a collection of 27 separately chartered banks spread across the Southeast that emphasized local management and local decision-making. That structure, which has been tried by other banks including the old Bank One Corp. of Columbus, Ohio, proved cumbersome and costly.

In January, SunTrust completed the consolidation of those 27 charters. The company said the move would save it $15 million a year in regulatory reporting expenses and improve the way it manages its assets and capital.

Charter consolidation has been popular since 1994, when Congress passed an interstate branching law that eliminated the need for many banks to maintain separate charters for different markets. In the statement Wednesday, Mr. Humann said the efficiency campaign would not come at the expense of "strong local market emphasis."

The executive changes announced Wednesday emphasize three business groupings at SunTrust: technology, finance, and commercial and retail banking.

Analysts said the changes are in keeping with SunTrust's efforts to centralize. "They are really serious about standardization and efficiency and these moves kind of go hand in hand with that," said Michael Plodwick, an analyst with UBS Warburg.

John W. Clay Jr., 58, will be vice chairman in charge of SunTrust's four major geographic units: Florida, Georgia, the Mid-Atlantic (Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia), and Tennessee/Alabama. Mr. Clay was an executive vice president in charge of corporate and investment banking. He will continue to oversee those operations.

Theodore J. Hoepner, 59, will be vice chairman and head the technology and operations functions, along with several other administrative areas. Mr. Hoepner had been chairman and chief executive of the SunTrust Bank, Florida. In addition, he will continue to be in charge of the company's "efficiency and quality" initiatives, a role he assumed last summer when the bank announced its plans to consolidate charters.

John W. Spiegel, 59, will be vice chairman and oversee finance-related functions including accounting, risk management, and mergers and acquisitions. He will remain chief financial officer.

James M. Wells 3d will be vice chairman and head of the commercial, retail, mortgage, and private client services units. The 54-year-old also will oversee marketing, strategy, and product management. He was president and chief executive of the mid-Atlantic region.

Several other senior management promotions were announced Wednesday. C.T. Hill, 49, was named president and chief executive officer of SunTrust's mid-Atlantic region, taking over for Mr. Wells. George W. Koehn, 57, was named chairman and CEO of SunTrust Florida, succeeding Mr. Hoepner. R. Charles Shufeldt, 50, was named executive vice president for corporate and investment banking.


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