Executives at Banc One Corp. expressed confidence that Dean Witter's planned merger with Morgan Stanley & Co. would be a boon to its own closely watched brokerage alliance with Dean Witter.

"We're real positive about it," and so is James F. Higgins, president of the investment unit of Dean Witter, said David R. Meuse, executive vice president of Banc One Capital Holdings Corp., Columbus, Ohio.

"We have a good, close relationship. The merger will give us more information, more products," said Mr. Meuse.

Mr. Higgins could not be reached for comment.

Early last year, Dean Witter Financial embarked on a massive drive to recast Banc One's brokerage business in its own image. Under the two companies' plans, Banc One employees trade on Dean Witter systems and sell Dean Witter's research and investment products.

The alliance is one of several that Morgan Stanley Group and Dean Witter, Discover & Co. have with banks. When the two Wall Street firms announced their intent to merge last week, their bank partners greeted the news with mixed emotion.

The future is unclear, "as you can imagine with something like this," said Charles W. King, vice president of media and investor relations at Wilmington Trust Corp., the nation's eighth-largest personal trust bank, with assets of $12 billion in personal trust and $100 billion overall.

He would not say how much Wilmington earns from its alliance with Morgan Stanley, under which Morgan sends trust customers to the Delaware bank.

"We're talking to folks at Morgan Stanley" and would "certainly" be interested in continuing the relationship, he added.

"Wilmington Trust provides traditional trust services to Morgan clients- for charitable gifts and caring for a child. You want to retain Morgan Stanley for investment advice. ... The Morgan Stanley folks understand what we provide."

But Morgan Stanley will likely soon understand what Dean Witter Trust Co. provides, too. The year-old division, based in Jersey City, doesn't have the experience or clout of Wilmington Trust, but sending clients there would keep trust revenue in-house.

Matt Mason, marketing director for Dean Witter Trust, would not comment on the Wilmington Trust alliance.

Observers say the Banc One deal is likely to fare better than the Wilmington venture once Dean Witter and Morgan Stanley marry.

Morgan Stanley got into the Dean Witter merger "for the power of the retail branches," said Bob Herring, executive vice president at First Data Investor Services Group, Westboro, Mass.

With the Banc One deal, he added, "there's little crossing" with products that will be offered by the merged company-Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter, Discover & Co. "The Wilmington Trust situation is a bit hazier."

The Banc One alliance was set up to sell Dean Witter bond and mutual funds, among other products, in Banc One's 1,500 branch offices, which represent 22 million customers.

Over the span of the five-year contract, Banc One expects to boost the percentage of overall customers using its brokerage services from 10% to 40%-or from 2.2 million to 8.8 million clients, Mr. Meuse said.

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