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Wade Reece

It took BB&T’s insurance subsidiary nearly 70 years to reach $6 million in annual sales. Seventeen years after Wade Reece took the reins, it’s about to hit $1 billion. So much for oil and water not mixing — the oil being bankers, who are supposed to shun risk, and insurers, who owe their existence to it.

Wisdom of the sage's

It’s often hard to separate fact from lore, and sometimes not even worth the trouble if you subscribe to that cynical wisdom among journalists that holds, “Facts have killed many a great story.” So I use Joseph Kennedy here only as a starting point and with no certainty that his famous utterance about the shoeshine boy was true.

Tipping point - Financial Services

More than any other person, Hugh McColl is responsible for North Carolina’s prominence in the financial sector. During his 18 years as CEO of what was NCNB Corp. and later became Bank of America Corp., the company stretched its footprint from one coast to the other and became the nation’s second-largest bank holding company.

In with the new

This is being written five days short of the winter solstice with New Year’s Eve only a fortnight hence. With both the season and calendar turning, it would seem an appropriate occasion to discuss some events both past and, shall we say, prescient. In looking ahead, I’m confining myself to that which I have foreknowledge, even though I’m well aware that opining on things one knows nothing about is one of the most cherished traditions of the journalist’s craft.

Figure for

Timing is everything when you’re buying and selling stocks. And autumn 2006, it turns out, was a bad time to fall in love with financial companies — at least it was for those who participate in Business North Carolina’s annual stock-picking contest. A subsequent slump in the housing market and concerns about loan losses, among other things, punished financial stocks this summer and into the fall.

A foot in the door

After 32 years in Tar Heel banking, Bob James had reached the pinnacle. The CEO of Charlotte-based First Charter Corp. was elected in June to a one-year term as chairman of the North Carolina Bankers Association. But by the time that term ends, he probably won’t even have the top job at his own bank.

Culture shock

I couldn’t tell you the name of the road, but you can buy just about anything there — bootleg DVDs, marigold garlands, time with a prostitute, milk freshly squeezed from the teat of a buffalo. Navigating it demands vigilance, patience and courage.

Tastes change

In an office atop Wachovia Corp. headquarters in downtown Charlotte, the phone rang. G. Kennedy Thompson, who runs the nation's fourth-largest bank, answered.

Banks think global but still give local

Banks pulled off plenty of mergers between 1994 and 2004, often cutting costs in the process, yet their charitable giving didn’t suffer, according to a study of seven large banks and their predecessors.

Dodging the overdraft

Within an eight-day stretch earlier this summer, two news reports appeared in my local paper that, when taken together, perfectly illustrated why the banking industry’s relationship with its ordinary-Joe customers is like that of a dysfunctional couple who swing wildly between love and strife.

Matter of opinion

As business editor of The News & Observer, Dan Gearino wrote a weekly column, but one annoyed the executive editor so much that he pulled the plug. “I’ll stipulate the charge: My columns were notably short on reverence,” concedes Dan, who channeled some of the creative energy that went into writing the column to his first novel — What the Deaf-Mute Heard — which Simon & Schuster published. It would win the state’s top fiction prize and be turned into the highest-rated TV movie of the decade.

Point blank

Keith West stood 6-4 and weighed about 260. Nearly 40, the ex-Marine had gone soft around the waist, but his arms still looked as hard as tree trunks. His size served him well in his business. He had left the Smithfield Police Department in 2001 to start West-Tek Inc., his private police force, which within five years had more than 100 employees. He rarely took vacations, spending much of his time away from the office boning up on security practices and networking.

Are you experienced?

As managing editor of The Charlotte Observer, a job he held 13 years, Frank Barrows ran a newsroom 250 people strong. As Business North Carolina’s new executive editor, he supervises three editors — four, once we fill a vacancy — and tries to keep an editor in chief at least somewhat focused and on task. Small in number we might be, but we’ve spent a combined 161 years in journalism, probably one of the most experienced staffs of ink-stained wretches you’ll find working anywhere.

Hot Stocks - A panel of pros compete in predicting whose picks will produce the most profit in the year to come.

A panel of pros compete in predicting whose picks will produce the most profit in the year to come.

Target prices

Frank Jolley is trying to play it cool. He says he doesn’t take Business North Carolina’s annual stock-picking competition seriously. Yet last year’s champ, who’s president of Jolley Asset Management in Rocky Mount, knew before the official numbers were crunched this year that someone else had captured his crown.