WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - L.M. "Bud" Baker Jr. has been CEO of Wachovia Corp. for only 17 months, but he's already put his stamp on the company. Since he took the chief executive's reins from John G. Medlin Jr. last year (Mr. Medlin remains chairman), Mr. Baker has launched cost-cutting programs, divested business units, and restructured management along functional lines. The changes might not yet constitute a revolution, but they do represent a significant shift in Wachovia's tradition-respecting culture. Mr. Baker made these changes because he is preoccupied with demographic and technological developments occurring in the industry at large, which he says will lead to big adjustments in the ways banks interact with their customers. As he makes clear in his first extended interview with the American Banker since he took charge in January 1994, he intends to position Wachovia to meet those challenges. Mr. Baker, 52, possesses a restless intellect. A conversation with him skips easily from a biography of Gen. Douglas MacArthur to a recent visit to London's Kew Gardens, where he pondered the life cycle of trees. Mr. Baker can be a man of action when events require, as his recent initiatives demonstrate. But he's rare among bank CEOs for his propensity to stop along the way to smell the roses and consider the deeper philosophical issues.

Q.: Wachovia hasn't announced a major acquisition since 1991. Are you still interested in geographic expansion?

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