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Linnet Deily

When Linnet Deily took over as president and chief operating officer at First Interstate Bank of Texas three years ago, she was handed a mandate to shake things up. A dismal recession in the state had compounded industrywide doldrums, spelling trouble for the subsidiary of First Interstate Bancorp in Los Angeles.Deily, a fourth-generation Texan and …

When Linnet Deily took over as president and chief operating officer at First Interstate Bank of Texas three years ago, she was handed a mandate to shake things up. A dismal recession in the state had compounded industrywide doldrums, spelling trouble for the subsidiary of First Interstate Bancorp in Los Angeles.

Deily, a fourth-generation Texan and previously an executive at the parent concern, seized the chance to return home. Initiating a turnaround, she chose a twofold approach. Inside the bank, Deily threw open her doors to staffers, scrapping the traditional management hierarchy. Outside, she moved aggressively into retail banking and expanded $5.9 billion-asset First Interstate-Texas’ middle-market, corporate focus.

The results have been impressive. First Interstate, the second largest Texas bank, chalked up net income of $32.1 million in the third quarter ended September 30, up 60.4 percent from the year-earlier period. But perhaps most important, the bank sliced nonperforming assets 54 percent to $108 million and reached a 2.27 percent return on assets, outpacing many of its peers.

These days, team management is a buzzword. But Deily, also now chief executive at First Interstate, quickly put her plans into action. Not long after taking the helm, she toured each of the bank’s 59 branches, talking with employees about how to improve service and efficiency.

In seeking new business, Deily also considerably widened the bank’s target market. “In the past, Texas banking in general has focused more on the commercial, the corporate client,” she said. “We found the heritage in this bank was predominantly the middle market. We wanted to build off that heritage, because we thought there were some other products and services for that segment that we could bring to the table.”

Recalling the turnaround process at First Interstate-Texas, Deily noted: “In 1990, we crossed over and actually began making money on an operating basis. We had seen movement for several quarters, but to see it turn positive, and then to see it start to build month by month was a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.”

With the CEO’s position came membership on the parent company’s managing committee. As a result, Deily now flies to Los Angeles monthly to attend strategy meetings. Meanwhile, if you’re a recruiter, don’t come knocking on her door.

“I’m quite happy to be here in Texas,” she says.

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