Wachovia's regional president steps down

By Danielle Douglas
Monday, January 10, 2011

Wachovia's regional president of retail banking for greater Washington, George Swygert, is stepping down, after prepping area branches for this year's Wells Fargo rebranding.

Pete Jones, the regional president for the Mid-Atlantic, will fill his position in the interim until a permanent replacement is found.

"My job at Wachovia had always been to build and create, fix it and move on. I feel like I've done that here, so now is the time," said, Swygert, 43, explaining his departure.

"I've been through 18 or 19 mergers, always on the buy side, not the bought side. Nothing is wrong with it. I think the culture of the company is great. It's just different than cultures that I've created," he added.

A lot of work, he said, went into putting the infrastructure in place for the transformation, fleshing out the new business lines, adding more bankers. Now that Wachovia is coming down the home stretch, Swygert felt it was "just the right opportunity to take a leave and do something different."

Swygert said he left of his own accord and on amicable terms. Wachovia, he noted, has discussed the possibility of him taking up other positions within the organization, to which he is not averse.

"George did a great job of leading us through the changes," Jones said. "I'm looking for someone who can sustain the environment he created, having engaged team members in the stores."

Wachovia bankers from across the country, Jones said, have expressed interest in the position, which he hopes to fill by early February.

While Swygert stepped into his role in early 2009, the veteran banker had been with the company since he graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1989. He spent more than a decade of that tenure in the Washington area before being sent out to Los Angeles in 2005 to establish a retail footprint in the West.

By the time Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia for $14 billion in 2008, Swygert had helped launch 218 branches throughout California, Arizona and Nevada, primarily through a wave of mergers and acquisitions.

"Going to a brand new market, where we didn't have one single branch or customer and being told to start Wachovia there, will be his greatest legacy," Jones said. "We had tremendous success because of George and his leadership."

The reputation Swygert earned from his adventures out West is one of the reasons he was asked to head back to this side of the country. Initially, he was charged with running the regional small-business banking division, eventually shifting into his most recent role, following a management realignment.

In the time since his return, Swygert has ingratiated himself with the local business community, joining several area groups, including the Greater Washington Board of Trade. That organization's president and chief executive, Jim Dinegar, said he was disheartened to learn of Swygert's leaving.

"George did a very nice job when he hit town of meeting people and making the right connections and commitments," said Dinegar.

Swygert, the son of a minister, finds great purpose in community service work and plans to be a full-time volunteer for at least the next six months. He said he'll also enjoy getting to spend more time with his wife and 7-year-old daughter.

"I'll get back into the [banking] scene in the middle of the year, maybe next year," he said. "I'm not rushing into anything else. I'm looking at a couple different things."

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