The messages in Monday's megamerger announcements about increased consolidation and scale are familiar to the credit card industry. But the already concentrated card business will be affected by these deals nonetheless.
Credit cards were a major contributor to First Chicago NBD Corp.'s profits, and market speculation had been focused for months on its combination with Banc One Corp.
In the $30 billion acquisition of First Chicago, Columbus, Ohio-based Banc One would grow to $57 billion in outstandings, second only to Citicorp's $65 billion, as of the companies' yearend disclosures.
Banc One chairman John B. McCoy characterized the transaction as a merger of equals designed to push the company toward becoming a nationwide provider of financial services-a strategy in which cards are certain to be central.
BankAmerica Corp. and NationsBank Corp. would bring about equal credit card assets to their merger. The merged company would have about $20 billion of receivables, fifth among banks.
"The BankAmerica merger is more complementary from a geographical point of view, while First Chicago-Banc One is more complementary in terms of business lines," said Anthony Davis, an analyst at SBC Warburg Dillon Reed & Co.
"First Chicago brings significant experience in the commercial card marketplace of small businesses as well as Fortune 500 corporations," said Stanley W. Anderson, president of Anderson & Associates in Arvada, Colo.
"They clearly become that one-stop shop for all types of small and midsize businesses," Mr. Anderson said, "and because of their size, they can leverage that for the large corporations."
Mr. McCoy said the merger would also result in relationships with 10 million households and 56 million credit card customers. (According to RAM Research Group, Banc One and First Chicago NBD had 53.1 million cards in force at yearend.)
"The name of the game is having the customer and being able to sell to that customer," Mr. McCoy said.
Banc One and First Chicago "were both strong in their respective markets, and now they have just become bigger and stronger," said Anita Boomstein, a partner in the law firm Hughes, Hubbard & Reed.
But one consultant wondered if banks have learned how to effectively boost revenue after achieving this type of scale.
"What still hasn't been worked through yet is how do you now increase the top line of the equation to find ways to provide better services to customers through cross-selling," said Frank Caruana, director of marketing systems, Danielian Consulting Group, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Banc One has not given details on how it would integrate the First Chicago NBD credit card operation into its portfolio, which is built around the First USA operation that Banc One acquired last year.
Ms. Boomstein said the integration will be "a mammoth task. I don't know how you decide which elements of which organizations to retain and which to fold into others."
Mr. Davis said, "They may be separate portfolios that continue to be run out of the First Chicago operation," which has the successful United Airlines cobranded card.
But he added, "I would suspect the First Chicago operation will be widely absorbed into Banc One's, given First USA's bigger size and more elaborate technology and marketing capabilities."
"The price that First Chicago sold for gives Banc One the luxury to take a cautious approach to integrating the technologies," said Diana P. Yates, an analyst at A.G. Edwards. But they "might not get all synergies as fast as they would like."
As for NationsBank and Bank-America, "there is no overlap, which is good and bad," Mr. Caruana said. Though the organization would span the country, it would have fewer opportunities to cut costs out than would a more typical in-market merger, though credit card operations may be an exception.
"The detriment for NationsBank is that people have not understood or appreciated the name; it is not a name that has ever caught on," Mr. Anderson said.
The banks will be wrestling with the question of which brand name to use. Mr. Anderson pointed out that BankAmerica's BankAmericard is "the grandfather of all credit card programs. That historical value and name recognition is most significant and will give them a boost in terms of national credit card marketing."