CHICAGO - Now that the two parts of First Chicago NBD Corp. have officially been combined, the huge task of working out the consolidation on the ground begins.
Details of the bank's plan to cut expenses by $200 million within two years are expected to emerge gradually over the next six months. On Monday, the bank said it would close 24 Chicago-area branches, eliminating 250 jobs.
"The devil, as usual, is in the details," said W.G. Jurgensen, a former First Chicago executive vice president who was named merger manager a month ago.
First Chicago must decide everything from which computers to use to what the new letterhead will look like. And, of course, any discussion about stationery is premature until a name for the holding company is agreed upon.
"I hear the name will be changed, and I think it should be changed," said James M. Schutz, a senior banking analyst at Chicago Corp. "What will they do if they acquire, say, Boatmen's? Call it First Chicago NBD Boatmen's? It will begin to sound like a law firm."
"Nobody thinks it's a great name, but it's what we have in place for the moment," said bank spokeswoman Lisabeth Weiner.
Names aside, Mr. Jurgensen has a full plate these days. He replaces a task force set up to work through merger details, such as management structure.
The 44-year-old former First Chicago chief financial officer was in charge of community banking before he was tapped to oversee the transition to the merged institution, which will have $124 billion in assets. The consolidation could take two years, he said. The company needs to pare the number of products it offers, its number of employees, its branches, and a host of other things.
"Both corporations have a long history of making acquisitions," Mr. Jurgensen said. "Both understand acquisitions very well. Neither has been involved in a merger (of this magnitude) before."
The new bank's expense-cutting goal will be reached by identifying and reducing redundant operations, including the elimination of 1,700 jobs, or 5% of the work force. The branch closings announced Monday represent an unspecified portion of the $110 million the bank intends to cut from its consumer business operations.
All but nine of the Chicago-area branches being closed are former NBD Corp. offices. Only one office in the city of Chicago will be shut down. Remaining NBD branches will be renamed First National Bank of Chicago.
No divestitures of major subsidiaries are planned, Mr. Jurgensen said.
Prioritizing what gets done next is the first task at hand. "New corporate letterhead might not be as important as what corporate loan system we might have," Mr. Jurgensen said.
Then there's the intangible, but crucial, issue of merging cultures. Though First Chicago NBD Corp. describes its recent deal as a merger of equals, Chicago Corp.'s Mr. Schutz said clearly NBD is running the show. The corporate culture, he predicts, will more closely resemble the conservatism of the Detroit-based bank. Evidence of early NBD influence included the Sept. 5 closing of an emerging markets business office in New York.
Analysts are optimistic about the way the consolidation is going. "They're making sure they've got their domestic operations in order rather than playing around in Brazil or Portugal or wherever," said Robert Ollech, an analyst with Howe Barnes Investments Inc.
Mr. Schutz said he believes First Chicago will focus on being a regional institution rather than a money-center bank. He's not concerned about the consolidation as long as First Chicago's earnings are good.
Mr. Ollech agrees. "The thing that makes you worry is if something blows up," he said.