The First Chicago NBD Corp. name will fade away from its hometown when Bank One Corp. wraps up its merger integration.
On Sept. 13 Bank One, which bought First Chicago in October, plans to close fewer than 10 First National Bank of Chicago branches and switch the remaining 160 sites to the Bank One brand.
The $250.4 billion-asset company currently operates about 15 branches under its own name in Illinois, a spokesman said.
As the changeover looms, Bank One is pushing hard to attract new business in the Chicago area to help counteract attempts by other banks to pick off customers, said Diana Yates, an analyst with A.G. Edwards of St. Louis.
"Bank One is really trying to grow in the market while it is converting," Ms. Yates said. "From a retail and small-business to middle- market perspective, there's a lot of possibility in the Chicago area."
Bank One faces some risks in dropping the First Chicago name, branding experts said. The former First Chicago was the largest banking company in the area and had a loyal customer base, said Brannon M. Cashion, vice president of the Charlotte, N.C.-based brand consulting firm Addision Whitney.
"They are giving up maintaining that brand equity for the bigger picture, which is brand unity," Mr. Cashion said. "You have an opportunity to establish a consistent and unified message across geography, product categories, and demographics."
Bank One operates in 14 states, from Florida to Arizona.
Alan Bergstrom, the president and chief executive officer of Brand Consultancy in Atlanta argued that changing a local name like First Chicago gives longtime customers a reason to leave.
"In this environment, there's a rush to rebrand everything under a single name, but I don't see any good arguments for doing it," Mr. Bergstrom said. "Bankers don't really understand there is an emotional side to every brand."
To hedge the short-term risks of the conversion, Bank One in late May and early June sent letters to Chicago-area customers. Bank One spokesman Thomas Kelly said the bank is trying to convince customers that the change is a positive one.
"We essentially want to let them know we'll still be Chicago's bank," he said.
Meanwhile, Bank One completed the integration of First Chicago NBD's operations in Indiana over the weekend.
The changeover covered roughly 130 branches, with 400 signs. Bank One has 182 branches in Indiana.