NationsBank N.A. has placed its top Maryland executive on indefinite administrative leave, raising questions about local leadership of the state's largest bank.
Susan C. Keating, who has run NationsBank's Maryland operation and its consumer banking affairs for the Mid-Atlantic region since the Charlotte, N.C.-based company purchased MNC Financial Inc. in October 1993, left the bank about a week ago, a spokesman said.
Although NationsBank officials declined to provide a reason for the abrupt departure, a NationsBank N.A. board member and other sources close to the bank said Ms. Keating's move was precipitated by an offer of a senior position at competitor First Maryland Bancorp, whose primary subsidiary is the First National Bank of Maryland.
Ms. Keating was unable to accept the First Maryland offer because it would violate the terms of her NationsBank contract, the board member said. It could not be determined when the contract expires.
"The administrative leave was mutually agreed upon, and it will extend for an indefinite time," the spokesman said. He declined to elaborate and did not return several subsequent phone calls.
Attempts to contact Ms. Keating, who joined MNC Financial in 1988, were unsuccessful yesterday.
If Ms. Keating does eventually move to First Maryland, however, she would be the latest of many NationsBank executives to defect since former MNC Financial Vice Chairman Frank P. Bramble Sr. became First Maryland's chief executive in March 1994.
Since then, dozens of former MNC Financial personnel have been lured to the Allied-Irish Banks PLC subsidiary.
Mr. Bramble, who had promoted Ms. Keating to executive vice president at MNC Financial, was in Ireland and could not be reached for comment. A First Maryland spokesman said he was unaware of whether Ms. Keating had been offered a job with the bank.
R. Eugene Taylor, president of NationsBank's Mid-Atlantic banking group, has assumed Ms. Keating's responsibilities, the NationsBank spokesman said. From 1990 until November 1993, Mr. Taylor was president of NationsBank of Florida.
It could not be determined if Mr. Taylor, who was on vacation yesterday, would fill Ms. Keating's spot on the several boards she has been a member of in her capacity with NationsBank. Several corporate leaders said Ms. Keating has been a visible and positive force for the bank in the community.
"It would leave NationsBank without a human face in Baltimore, so to speak," said one bank executive, who asked not to be identified.
Most recently, Ms. Keating in February was named by Gov. Parris N. Glendening to a 21-member economic development commission. And since January, she also has been a board member of Empower Baltimore!, the company established to oversee the city's $100 million federal empowerment zone grant.
"It's problematic in the short run, but longer term I don't think it will hurt NationsBank," the bank board member said. "NationsBank is so big, so visible in the community, they're like McDonald's. If the head of McDonald's leaves, do people stop going there to buy food?"
At least part of Ms. Keating's leave may be attributed to the changing corporate structure of NationsBank in Maryland. In March, NationsBank consolidated its Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia operations into NationsBank N.A. after receiving federal approval.
Before the consolidation, which eliminated a separate Maryland bank, Ms. Keating's title had been president of NationsBank of Maryland N.A. She has since been identified as a NationsBank senior executive.