John A. Allison 4th completed the year as chairman and CEO of an $11 billion-asset bank. Sometime in the first quarter, he will assume command of a $19 billion-asset company.

The second largest bank deal of 1994, struck between Mr. Allison's BB&T Financial Corp. and Southern National Corp., carries both opportunity and pitfalls for Mr. Allison, who is only 45. The opportunity is to make the new Southern National, which starts out with the top-ranked deposit share in North Carolina and third-largest in South Carolina, a true regional power.

The pitfalls have to do with melding two different corporate cultures and delivering the financial performance that Wall Street expects. The merger-of-equals road traveled by other banks before Southern National has occasionally led straight downhill.

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