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Hilson promoted to bank's Fla. chief

In his role as Bank of America's South Florida market president, Robb Hilson said he liked to roll up his sleeves and meet personally with clients and prospects.

Hilson's sleeve-rolling just got a lot more serious. Bank of America named Hilson its Florida president Wednesday.

Hilson, 47, replaces Tim Laney, who has run Florida operations since 2001. Laney will lead the bank's Global Corporate Sales division at company headquarters in Charlotte, N.C.

Like his predecessor, Hilson will oversee the Florida unit from Jacksonville.

Bank of America is the state's largest bank and with Wachovia, the state's second-largest bank, the two control about 40 percent of Florida's large banking market.

And it's a good time to be a major player. The state's business climate, Hilson said Wednesday, couldn't be much better.

"Florida is doing very well," he said. "We've got a surplus in the state budget and unemployment is at really low levels. I think we'll see really good prospects for growth."

"But," he added, "there are some areas that have people anxious."

Among those areas, Hilson said, are a condominium market that is overbuilt and a housing market that is increasingly out of reach to many people.

"Those are issues," he said, "that need to be addressed."

Bank of America operates in 29 states, each with its own set of issues. In December, retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks joined the bank's 18-member board, making Franks the only member with Florida roots.

But that doesn't mean Florida won't get the bank's full attention.

"Florida is very important to our company," Hilson said. "We have our chairman and senior leader's attention, and I think Tim Laney's moving to Charlotte is evidence of that."

Hilson described his management style as a combination of trusting the bank's local market leaders and personal interaction with employees and the public.

"I'm available when needed," he said. "I love rolling up my sleeves . . . That's exciting and I'll continue to do that."


AGE: 47.

PERSONAL: Married with children; lives in Miami.

EDUCATION: Bachelor's of science in finance from Florida State University, MBA from the University of Georgia.

CAREER: Joined Bank of America in 1987; senior leadership positions in commercial and small business banking; senior banking executive in Palm Beach County from 1993-96; named South Florida market president in 1998.