SAN FRANCISCO - BankAmerica Corp. has reorganized its consumer banking operation, separating branch banking from nonbranch retail functions and giving added clout to vice chairman Luke S. Helms.

In the realignment last month, Mr. Helms took command of BankAmerica's core California branch network, making him the company's branch banking czar, with authority over some 1,950 retail offices in 10 states.

Mr. Helms already supervised all BankAmerica's branch operations outside California.

Came from Seafirst

In addition, the company's consumer lending and small-business banking functions now report to Mr. Helms, a BankAmerica spokesman confirmed.

Mr. Helms, 49, came to BankAmerica from the company's Seattle-based Seafirst subsidiary earlier this year.

As chief executive since 1990, Mr. Helms turned the Washington unit into a sales juggernaut and one of the most profitable large banks in the nation.

Meanwhile, the responsibilities of vice chairman Thomas E. Peterson, 58, have been cut back.

Formerly chief of all retail functions including branch banking, Mr. Peterson is now responsible only for nonbranch operations. These include the credit card, wholesale mortgage, insurance, and consumer finance units.

Reporting to CEO

Mr. Helms, who was under Mr. Peterson, now reports directly to BankAmerica chairman and chief executive Richard M. Rosenberg.

In a related change, Randy C. James resigned as group executive vice president and marketing chief of BankAmerica's California unit.

A spokesman said the move was voluntary.

One source said Mr. James was unhappy about the division of marketing responsibilities following the reorganization.

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