Amsterdam-based ABN Amro NV said it will consolidate the management of its retail and corporate banking operations across Europe, eliminating a long-standing separation between its activities in the Netherlands and other European countries.
Though U.S. banking companies operating in Europe, like J.P. Morgan & Co. and Citigroup Inc., switched to Europeanwide management more than a decade ago, European banks have been slow to follow suit.
ABN Amro, with assets of $500 billion, has run its non-Dutch activities as part of its international operations.
Operations outside Europe will remain in the bank's international division. Investment banking and leasing will also be managed separately.
The bank said Wednesday that its decision was largely prompted by the introduction this year of the euro, which is replacing 11 European currencies, such as the deutsche mark and the French franc.
"The euro has created a common market for our banking services," said Jan Kalff, ABN Amro's chairman.
He added that integrating marketing and sales "is an obvious step" to create common platforms for international payment services and corporate and consumer banking.
ABN Amro has about 1,000 branches in the European Union and Switzerland, and a total of 3,500 worldwide.
Rijkman Groenink, a member of the board of management and chairman of the Netherlands Division, will head of the combined operations. He will be based in Amsterdam.
A spokesman for the company in Amsterdam said there is no plan to eliminate ABN Amro's separately licensed subsidiaries in different European countries, including France and Switzerland. The planned European division will target large and midsize companies that require cross-border payments, as well as trade finance, cash management, and loans.
The Dutch bank has rapidly globalized its operations over the last few years by acquiring banks in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the United States. At yearend, it was the largest foreign bank in the United States, with more than $82 billion in U.S. assets.
Amro's biggest holdings in the United States include the Chicago-based LaSalle Group, Standard Federal Bancorp, based in Troy, Mich., and European American Bank in New York.
In one of its most recent acquisitions, ABN Amro bought an 8.8% stake in Italy's Banca di Roma SpA and made a strategic alliance with a large Italian cooperative bank. It is also completing the acquisition of Nakornthon Bank Public Co., one of Thailand's larger banks.
ABN Amro also said it is accelerating its program to offer Internet- based international banking as an alternative distribution channel.
The company named Jean Paul Votron, currently executive vice president for international consumer banking, as senior vice president for e-commerce and international consumer banking.