With regulatory approvals for their merger in hand, NationsBank Corp. and BankAmerica Corp. are preparing for a final countdown to shareholder votes Sept. 24 and the anticipated closing Sept. 30.
Many post-merger moves, such as where the merged organizations would consolidate and which jobs would be cut, will begin to be laid out the first week of September with the planned completion of the first draft of senior management's integration plan.
The draft will be a "first pass" at addressing the myriad internal elements of integration, said James H. Hance Jr., NationsBank vice chairman and chief financial officer in a recent interview.
After what may be a series of revisions, a final plan is expected late this fall, Mr. Hance said.
The aim, of course, is to make much more out of a roughly $60 billion transaction than a distant corporate marriage. The banking companies have projected $1.3 billion in cost savings, half to be realized next year.
"We have several hundred people from each company looking to see what the similarities are, what the differences are, and what we should go to," Mr. Hance said.
Analysts are expressing little concern about the integration project, despite the complexity of creating the nation's largest bank holding company. Many say both Charlotte, N.C.-based NationsBank and BankAmerica, San Francisco, have the kind of experience with mergers and management of far-flung operations that bodes well for the transition.
"They've done this enough times," said R. Harold Schroeder, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc.; "they know what they're doing."
Though there is little geographic overlap between the two banking networks, opportunities exist for cost-cutting. Both companies have data centers around the country that house mainframe computer systems, as well as operations and call centers that could be consolidated. These types of facilities generally maintain large staffs, offering the potential for what Mr. Hance sees as "big savings."
One area where the post-merger consequences will likely be especially apparent is Seattle, which is home to BankAmerica's Seafirst division.
Of BankAmerica's retail operations, Seafirst is the most autonomous.
BankAmerica bought Seafirst Corp. in 1983 and consolidated its charter last year, but the separate identity is still manifest in its brand name, its own chief executive officer, advisory board, and data center.
"All this stuff is up for a look ... as to how it works in a large company and how it makes sense to put things together in processing a larger book of business," said Mr. Hance. "People are thinking about all these things."
The word is out in Seattle that the Seafirst moniker-historically Seattle-First National Bank-will give way to the still-undetermined name to be placed on the unified bank, the first with branches essentially coast to coast.
Either NationsBank or Bank of America would seem apropos, but the suspense about a choice may build for a while. NationsBank officials said the name selection is not expected to be made before the planned merger closing.
"We're still studying it," said Mr. Hance. "But we need to get it done soon. We have some branding to do, and we want to get on with it."
In a related move, the companies are in the midst of interviewing advertising agencies to handle consumer and commercial work reportedly budgeted at $80 million to $100 million a year.
One aspect of the integration for which many questions have been answered is identification of the new company's top managers. Lead executives have been named for nearly all business units, and those people are now naming their mid-level teams.
One of the most recent designations came Aug. 11 when NationsBank human resources chief Charles J. Cooley was named principal corporate personnel officer for the post-merger company. His BankAmerica counterpart, Kathleen J. Burke, has turned in her resignation.
A major area still awaiting a decision on leadership is community reinvestment. NationsBank's Catherine P. Bessant and BankAmerica's Donald A. Mullane are both under consideration for the high-profile role, which would oversee the combined companies' unprecedented $350 billion community investment pledge.
Even as they focus on short-term integration issues, banking officials are looking to build business lines for future growth. One area of particular interest is investment banking.
The post-merger company will need more "skills, services, and geography" for investment banking customers, both domestic and international, Mr. Hance said.
But that does not mean more acquisitions. The merged company will use Montgomery Securities as the foundation for building capabilities internally, said Mr. Hance.
Bank acquisitions, either for market fill-ins or expansion into new states, also are off the agenda at this point.
"We really are set," Mr. Hance said.