Question: What do you call a Chase banker?

Answer: Chemical waste.

- Joke going around about Chase Manhattan Bank Corp. after the August 1995 announcement of its merger with Chemical Banking Corp.

Things weren't particularly cheerful in the downtown offices of Chase Manhattan last fall. Many of Chase's 33,365 employees were sure that despite talk of a merger of equals, Chemical staffers would be the only ones to survive.

At the press conference announcing the agreement to create the country's largest bank, Walter Shipley, then chairman of Chemical, said that more than 12,000 of 75,000 positions at the combined bank would be slashed to cut costs.

But nearly a year later, forecasts that Chase bankers would bear the brunt of those layoffs have turned out to be wrong. Instead, Chemical and the old Chase have been equal sources for the growing stream of departures.

On the Chemical side, executives who have left include:

*William H. Turner, vice chairman in charge of middle-market banking.

*John Fogarty, executive vice president and head of private banking.

*William Langley, executive vice president and senior credit officer.

*Martin Zuckerman, head of human resources.

*Charles Salmans, head of advertising.

*Don McCouch, executive vice president in charge of emerging markets.

*Paul Dimmick, in charge of global capital markets and derivatives.

*Thomas Trebat, head of emerging markets research.

On the Chase side, departures included:

*John A. Ward, vice president and chief executive at Chase Bankcard Services.

*Robert B. Weiss, senior vice president for global risk management.

*Rupi Puri, head of operations in Chase's global markets group.

*Peter Holtzer, executive vice president for strategic planning.

*Craig D. Goldman, the executive in charge of distributed and advanced technologies.

*Deborah Talbot, executive vice president in charge of Chase's global payments and treasury system.

*Mark S. Kaufmann, director of corporate development.

Few executives from either bank were shoved out the door, sources said. But many at the combined bank did find themselves relegated to secondary roles or to jobs as co-managers. Several of these executives decided to leave on their own.

"My concern was that even if they kept me on, at some point somebody was going to start asking questions like 'Why do we have two people doing the same job?' and 'Why are we paying this guy so much?'" said one former Chase executive, who asked not to be named.

But Chase and Chemical bankers, like those executives forced out in the wake of Wells Fargo & Co.'s acquisition of First Interstate Bancorp, largely found the job market to be receptive to their experience and skills as well as to the prestige of their former institutions.

In fact, one top U.S. bank asked executive recruiting firm Egon Zehnder International to make up detailed, separate profiles of all the senior executives at the old Chase Manhattan and Chemical.

"Other institutions are very interested" in looking at somebody who was formerly with Chase or Chemical, said Egon Zehnder's Lee Pomeroy 2d.

Those who left the combined bank have cut a variety of career paths.

Mr. Kaufmann, the former director of corporate development at Chase, set up a consulting firm that specializes in helping companies set up joint ventures and partnerships.

Mr. Ward, the Chase Bankcard executive, jumped ship to become chairman and chief executive at American Express Bank. He was later joined by Mr. Weiss, Chase's former global risk manager, as American Express Bank's head of marketing and planning for commercial and correspondent banking.

Meanwhile, Kathlynn O'Donnell, who had directed Chase's emerging markets trading operations before heading up the bank's global capital markets operation, has joined Spain's Banco Santander as a managing director in emerging markets investment management.

And Mr. Dimmick, who had been in charge of global capital markets and derivatives at Chase, is now at Mellon Bank Corp., heading up the capital markets group.

Even Steve Rautenberg, the former director of public affairs at the old Chase, has since found himself a new job. Mr. Rautenberg recently joined Reliance Group Holdings as head of corporate communications.

But for many who decided to stay at the new Chase, life hasn't been particularly easy.

"A lot of people did get real jobs" at the combined bank, "but they got them with a wink and a nod that they were not going to last forever," Mr. Pomeroy said.

Many executives who kept their jobs complain of crammed working space at the midtown Manhattan headquarters, confused reporting lines, and new colleagues who have little understanding of or experience with the businesses they are in.

One person said to have departed under unpleasant conditions was Charles Bauccio, formerly in charge of Chase's Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and African operations. Mr. Bauccio resigned a month ago, reportedly after making comments critical of his Chemical colleagues.

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