In a move that should improve its strained relations with regulators, Lincoln Savings & Loan said Wednesday that it has hired a new chairman and chief executive and will begin restructuring itself into a more traditional savings institution.
William D. Hinz, 49, who left high-ranking positions six weeks ago at Great American First Savings Bank in San Diego, will take the reins at Lincoln Savings. Hinz replaces Robin S. Symes, 35.
Symes, a finance and computer specialist who had been promoted to chairman only last July, will become a senior vice president with the thrift's holding company, American Continental Corp. in Phoenix. He will stay in Irvine, however, as an executive vice president with Lincoln Savings. Hinz will be based in Phoenix.
Moving toward a more traditional approach would also help put the Irvine-based S&L in a better position to be sold if future industry changes or regulatory restrictions deflate its earnings or stock value, a spokesman for American Continental said.
With $4.9 billion in assets, Lincoln Savings is the 18th-largest S&L in the state. It has 27 branches in Southern California.
"A lot of change is coming, and we have to sit back and see where the industry is going," said Robert J. Kielty, a senior vice president at American Continental. "We're not trying to sell the S&L now, but we're constantly looking at the direction regulators are taking."
American Continental Chairman Charles H. Keating Jr. has long been a proponent of deregulation and expanded investment powers for thrifts--a stance that brought Keating and his institution into conflict with the Federal Home Loan Bank Board.
Industry sources said they believe that Keating has become frustrated with the restrictions imposed on thrifts despite deregulation of the industry since 1982.
"Frankly, I think Keating is at a point right now where he would like to get out of this thing," said William Davis, chief deputy commissioner of the state Department of Savings and Loan. "It didn't turn out to be what he thought he bought, and perhaps he would be open to some kind of offer."
Keating could not be reached for comment.
Lincoln has been under pressure by state and federal regulators, particularly from the bank board, to do more home lending, mortgage banking and other traditional thrift activities and to cut back on unconventional direct investments in real estate development, high-yield securities and stock purchases.
American Continental's Kielty denied that federal regulators pressured Lincoln into hiring a new leader who could take it on a more traditional path. But company executives had been talking since July about bringing in someone with more industry experience, he said. Symes said he had expected his stewardship to be temporary.
Hinz is a veteran of 25 years in the S&L business and was an executive vice president at Great American and president of its subsidiary, Home Federal Savings & Loan in Phoenix. He also was in charge of Great American's units in Washington, Colorado and Montana.
The hiring of Hinz should help conclude a 20-month-long regulatory audit of Lincoln, Davis said. State regulators have finished their review of Lincoln, he said. And federal regulators should wind up their examination soon, according to both federal regulatory officials and Lincoln executives.
Major Critic of Gray
The unusual length of the audit, which five U.S. senators tried in April to expedite, has been viewed by industry observers partly as retribution by regulators working for Edwin J. Gray Jr., whose term as chairman of the federal bank board ended in June. Keating had been a major critic of Gray's administration and its efforts to re-regulate the industry. The two had had a running feud during much of Gray's four years in office.
Lincoln's executives, as well as industry leaders in general, have welcomed the new style of the current bank board chairman, M. Danny Wall, whose administration more readily accepts the broader investment powers given S&Ls under 1982 deregulation laws.
Ironically, Lincoln not only plans to start doing more of what Gray had wanted it to do, it has also hired an executive from Gray's former employer--Great American.
"The plan for Lincoln Savings is to make it a more traditional thrift," Hinz said. "It will take every bit of three years, maybe five, to convert this thrift to a traditional savings and loan."