Banc One Corp. is counting on a Dallas banker who started and guided a bank through the roughest economic times in Texas to build up its own commercial business.

Ronald G. Steinhart, the newly named chairman and chief executive of Banc One's national commercial banking group, said his charge is to "substantially increase profitability" at the operation.

Mr. Steinhart, who was chief executive of Banc One Texas, said the commercial banking group will remain focused on lending to midsize businesses.

But Banc One will also use the commercial bank to bolster its noninterest income, which has come primarily from servicing retail products.

Mr. Steinhart said Banc One, which has $98.6 billion of assets, is also making a greater push into areas such as international banking and cash management.

Banc One's strategy is to sell more products to midsize businesses in markets where it has a retail presence. While Mr. Steinhart will oversee all of Banc One's markets, particular attention will be paid to growth areas like Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Chicago, and Texas, he said.

"How do we better penetrate markets, and how do we become more profitable? That's the focus going forward," he added.

Mr. Steinhart's promotion should wrap up Banc One's effort to form a centralized operating system organized around lines of business. Mr. Steinhart, 56, joins Kenneth T. Stevens, who heads the retail bank group, and David Kundert, who heads the trust group, in the upper ranks of the restructured bank.

Mr. Steinhart's new job did not exist before and represents a slight shift in strategy for the Columbus, Ohio-based company. Initially, Banc One had planned to organize its commercial business under five regional presidents who would form a commercial banking council. Mr. Steinhart said Banc One decided it was more efficient to have the regional presidents report to a chief executive.

Also reporting to Mr. Steinhart is Tyree Miller, who heads the commercial banking council and oversees several areas, including international banking, cash management, and product development.

Banc One spent a considerable amount of time reorganizing its retail banking business in 1995. Now, Mr. Steinhart said, the company is whipping its commercial operations into shape.

Banc One derives 55% of its total assets from retail and 45% from commercial. While the company doesn't divulge what percentage of its total loans are made to businesses, it said commercial loan growth lagged slightly behind retail lending in the third quarter, compared to the same period last year.

Mr. Steinhart, a 33-year veteran of Texas banking, started Team Bancshares in 1988 from a group of failed Texas banks. It was sold to Banc One in 1992. Mr. Steinhart was named president and chief operating officer of Bank One Texas when the acquisition of Team Bancshares was completed. He was promoted to chief executive in 1995.

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