Wilshire Financial Services Group of Portland, Ore., has hired California banking veteran Richard S. Cupp to lead the turnaround of its troubled First Bank of Beverly Hills.

Mr. Cupp succeeds Sheryl Moore, who resigned from $613 million-asset First Bank in June. Mr. Cupp, a banker for 35 years, was most recently president and CEO of HF Bancorp, which was sold last summer to Guaranty Federal Bank of Dallas. Earlier he headed Ventura County National Bancorp in Oxnard, Calif.

"Dick Cupp brings us a world of traditional banking experience," said Phil Vincent, president and CEO of Wilshire. "He is just the kind of executive we need to fix the existing problems and grow the bank."

First Bank, which primarily originates and sells mortgage loans, was deemed a "troubled institution" by the Office of Thrift Supervision earlier this year because of inadequate loan reserves and the lack of a CEO. In its order, the OTS also said First Bank would have to develop and implement an interest rate reduction plan and improve controls in its merchant bank card processing unit.

First Bank is not entirely in dire straits. The thrift reported a third-quarter profit of $1.4 million, up 102% from the same period in 1998. But its credit card operation lost $939,000, against a profit of $1.3 million a year earlier.

Observers note that Mr. Cupp restored Ventura County National to profitability after it lost $10.2 million in 1993. The bank was later sold to City National Corp in Beverly Hills, Calif. for about $47 million. He also improved the highly inefficient HF Bancorp and its troubled loan portfolio.

"He'll quickly assess the situation and make the right decisions," said Wade Francis, president of Unicon Financial Services Inc., a bank consulting firm in Long Beach, Calif. "He's proven himself in the past."

Robert J. Gallivan, principal at San Diego-based Bank Compensation Strategies Group, said, "He knows how to run a mean and lean operation. He puts money to the bottom line."

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