thrift in Illinois by merging two institutions into its $10.3 billion-asset subsidiary, LaSalle Bank FSB. The move, which the bank said creates efficiencies and provides customer convenience, primarily reflects a unified branding strategy for the Chicago subsidiary of Amsterdam-based ABN Amro. The thrifts had been known as LaSalle Talman Bank since 1992 and LaSalle Cragin Bank since last year. Company officials took into account the strong retail banking reputations associated with both the Cragin and Talman names, said Scott Heitmann, president and chief executive of LaSalle Bank FSB. While Cragin had been in the market since 1909 and Talman since 1922, LaSalle's reputation was as a larger commercial bank. Mr. Heitmann said the bank continues measuring consumer reaction to the LaSalle name. "What we're seeing is the LaSalle name is more and more recognized now," he said. Still, LaSalle hasn't been one to move quickly on merging its banks. There are nearly 100 bank and thrift offices around Chicago with the LaSalle name. In addition to the combined thrift operation there is LaSalle National Corp., the holding company of LaSalle National Bank, LaSalle Northwest National Bank, LaSalle Bank, and LaSalle Bank NI (northern Illinois). Although merging the commercial banks could save money, Mr. Heitmann said LaSalle has been going slowly with consolidating its acquisitions for marketing reasons. LaSalle Northwest, for instance, remains under the name so as not to rattle customers long familiar with Northwest National Bank. "A lot of people ask why we keep so many banks," Mr. Heitmann said. "Historically, these have been strong commercial and retail banks." At the same time, LaSalle officials said they are exploring how customers can use bank services at all the constituent institutions, including the thrifts. "We think this is an evolutionary step," Mr. Heitmann said of the name changes. "We went to great pains to communicate them."
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