Banc One Corp. has moved a step closer to consolidating its bank charters, merging its 14 Wisconsin banks into one state-chartered bank in Milwaukee.

With Wisconsin merged, Banc One has consolidated banks to one charter in eight of its 12 states. The $98.6 billion-asset company has a goal of consolidating to 12 charters in total - one for each state in which it operates - by yearend 1997.

A number of other banks are several steps ahead of Banc One in the consolidation process. Cleveland-based KeyCorp, for instance, plans to have one charter for its 12-state banking operation by midyear 1997.

But the consolidation so far at Columbus, Ohio-based Banc One has been no small feat.

Just three years ago, when it began merging its banks, it had nearly 90 charters. For years it followed a strategy of acquiring banks and letting them operate somewhat autonomously as long as they met profitability targets.

That practice, known as the "uncommon partnership," began to unravel as the company's earnings foundered. Since late 1994 Banc One has been engaged in a major restructuring program, which it is expected to complete by yearend 1998.

Analysts have been generally pleased with Banc One's moves.

"Management is sharply focused on getting this consolidation done," said Fred Cummings, an analyst with McDonald & Co. in Cleveland. However, he said, reorganization can sometimes disrupt a company's revenue stream.

"I think they're doing a good job on the cost side," Mr. Cummings said. "My concern is revenues."

One thing that's clearly changing is the role of the people who have been presidents of Banc One banks. Most of them have been reduced to commercial lenders.

In Wisconsin, William E. Read, who had been president and chief executive of Bank One Milwaukee, is now chief executive and president of Bank One Wisconsin. The 13 bank presidents are now called market presidents and report to Mr. Read.

Nevertheless, said Jon R. Schumacher, executive vice president in charge of community banks, there should be little disruption from the consolidation. "They'll still be known as presidents in those offices," Mr. Schumacher said.

Moreover, Banc One has been consolidating back-room operations in Wisconsin for the past couple of years, Mr. Schumacher said. And the consolidation of banks has been in the works as well. At one point, Banc One had nearly 30 banks in Wisconsin.

Banc One, which has $8.5 billion of assets in Wisconsin, also shed its holding company, Banc One Wisconsin.

Mr. Schumacher said he couldn't put a cost-savings estimate on the recent charter consolidation, but he said a combination of actions over the past couple of years should yield "substantial" savings.

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