Wachovia picks chief financial officer

Wachovia Corp. chief executive Bob Steel announced his first major hire late Monday, tapping financial services veteran and fellow Duke University graduate David Zwiener as his new chief financial officer.

Zwiener, 54, will replace Tom Wurtz, who said in July he would retire when his successor was found. The Observer and other news outlets reported Sunday evening that Zwiener was a candidate.

He joins the Charlotte bank Oct. 1 from the Carlyle Group private-equity firm, where he was co-head of the financial institutions group. Prior to that, he was an executive at The Hartford Financial Services Group, serving as CFO as well as president and chief operating officer of the property and casualty operations.

After replacing ousted chief executive Ken Thompson in July, Steel, 57, has moved quickly to put his stamp on the management team. He's searching for a new chief risk officer but has said he doesn't expect further executive departures.

The CFO is the bank's top number-cruncher and a primary face to Wall Street analysts. The job is critical, because Wachovia is looking to restore investor credibility after a series of missteps, including its disastrous 2006 purchase of mortgage specialist Golden West Financial Corp.

In a statement, Steel said Zwiener brings a “a diverse background that reflects sound business leadership, finance and operations experience and the ability to manage complex businesses for profitability.” Neither Steel nor Zwiener was made available for interviews.

Bank analyst Nancy Bush of NAB Research in New Jersey applauded the choice, citing Zwiener's operations and finance background. “He will populate the place with a whole different skill set,” she said.

As CFO, Zwiener will play a critical role in managing the bank's capital, financial reporting and investor relations. The operations and technology division also will report to him.

“Wachovia has enormous potential, and I am excited to be part of the team working to restore confidence and value for shareholders,” Zwiener said in a statement.

Zwiener and his wife, Nancy, live in Hartford, Conn., and have an apartment in New York, where he was based with Carlyle. They have three daughters who graduated from Duke and a son who is a freshman at the school. Zwiener, who was born in New Hampshire and raised in Chicago, got his MBA at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Besides shaking up management, Steel has announced major job cuts and slashed the company's dividend. He has stressed plans to keep the company independent, while saying he may sell off “non-core” assets. Zwiener was an executive at ITT Corp. when it spun off operations that became Hartford Financial Services Group, now a major insurance and investment firm.

Over the weekend, another top Carlyle executive, former US Bancorp vice chairman David Moffett, departed to become chief executive of Freddie Mac. Carlyle has also made financial services industry hires lately, including former Wachovia treasurer James Burr.