Zoffinger Leaving N.J. Post For Star Role at Constellation

George R. Zoffinger, New Jersey's commissioner of commerce and economic development, is coming back to banking.

The former First Fidelity Bancorp. executive, who joined the cabinet of Governor Jim Florio in January 1990, was recently named president and chief executive officer of the $2.9 billion-asset Constellation Bancorp, based in Elizabeth, N.J., and of its National State Bank subsidiary.

Turnaround Effort Needed

Mr. Zoffinger will replace Joel D. Siegel, an attorney and board member who has served as president and CEO for the past six months. The appointment required the approval of thrift regulators because of Constellation's recent acquisition of New Brunswick Savings Bank.

National State Bank, one of the 10 largest commercial banks in New Jersey, suffered losses this year and last during the regional real estate crisis. For years before, though, profits were consistently high, equaling 1% or more of assets.

"The bank continues to face a variety of difficulties and uncertainties, as well as the need to accelerate restructuring" and sharpen its focus on core business, said Mr. Zoffinger, 43. "I am looking forward to the challenges."

He said his experience in state government "will be very helpful in my new job and in the business community."

Mr. Zoffinger directed New Jersey's efforts in economic development, international trade, small-business development, urban revitalization, and travel and tourism programs. He had a reputation as a tough manager and a staunch advocate of the business community.

When asked to join the Florio administration, Mr. Zoffinger was restructuring First Fidelity's operations in London and directing its overseas lending from there. Before that he had been executive vice president of two First Fidelity units - First Fidelity Bank, Newark, and Fidelity Bank, Philadelphia.

|The Skills to Lead Revitalization'

He "possesses unsurpassed professional credentials and admirable personal characteristics," said Constellation's chairman, Robert W. Kean Jr. "George is widely known and highly respected and has the skills to direct and lead the revitalization of our organization."

Mr. Zoffinger's banking career started in 1975, when he joined Irving Trust Co. in New York as a trainee.

A year later he joined First National State Bank of New Jersey, a predecessor of First Fidelity. His career included a stint as senior vice president of Allied Bank International, a New York-based consortium bank in which Lawrenceville, N.J.-based First Fidelity was an investor. And in the early 1980s he led First National State in serving large corporate and government accounts overseas.

He has a MBA in finance from New York University and a bachelor's degree in business from Pennsylvania State University.

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