George Rothell, who has spent the last two years helping revive First Interstate Bank of Utah, will retire March 1 as chairman and chief executive officer of the $950 million financial institution.

He will continue as a director, while bank president Richard W. Kieffer will assume the chairman and chief executive responsibilities.Rothell came to Utah in 1986, after serving a year as vice chairman of the bank's parent First Interstate Bancorp, based in Los Angeles with operations in 21 states.

With the economies declining in First Interstate's Rocky Mountain region during 1986, he was asked to help the affiliate banks in the region handle their problem portfolios and was named chairman and chief executive of the Utah bank. During his tenure, he has concentrated his efforts on the bank's non-performing loan portfolio, productivity and expense levels.

Rothell, a graduate of the University of Nebraska and former Marine pilot, began his banking career in 1960 with Bank of America, where he spent 12 years working in agricultural, retail finance and corporate banking. In 1972, he joined Western American Bank, an international consortium bank based in London, initially heading up the corporate finance department and then serving as managing director and chief executive.

He returned to the states in 1977 to join First Interstate Bank of California, then known as United California Bank, where he was executive vice president, and eventually elected president, chief operating officer and director. In 1980 he was elected president and director of First Interstate Bancorp and was named vice chairman in 1985.