If making the Fortune 500 is the goal of chief executives everywhere, then bankers may be an exception to the rule.

Officials from some of the largest banks found little to celebrate in the fact that 31 of them made the list in the May 15 issue of the magazine.

"Fortune 500 has a nice ring to it, but I doubt it will have any practical benefit," said John Stefans, senior vice president and head of corporate communications at Chemical Banking Corp., which begins its run as No. 74 in the publication that hits the newsstands today.

This is the first time that Fortune has included banks and other nonindustrial companies in its main annual ranking of the largest U.S. corporations. It used to have separate lists for commercial banks, thrift institutions, retailers, and other categories.

Ranked according to annual revenue - not the traditional measure of relative bank size, but itself a sign of changing times - the biggest banking company, Citicorp, placed 17th; BankAmerica Corp. 46th, and NationsBank Corp. 71st.

At the lower end, Boatmen's Bancshares of St. Louis came in 485th.

Citicorp spokesman Jack Morris was equally indifferent: "It's just a definitional thing. We're the same organization we've always been."

"I suspect our customers and competitors won't find it particularly meaningful either," Mr. Morris added. "They know who we are by how we serve them."

A bank marketing executive also found it hard to work up any enthusiasm. Robert Watson, No. 267 Fleet Financial Group's vice president and director of corporate advertising, said, "I don't know if it is meaningful. The customers will tell us. We'll do focus groups."

He did point out that once Fleet's merger with Shawmut National Corp. is completed this fall, "we'll be in the Fortune 500 top 10 of banks."

One who responded favorably to the revamping of the Fortune 500 was Richard Kovacevich, chief executive officer of No. 197 Norwest Corp. He said it would be "positive" for the bank, adding that the decision to include banks in the list was "long overdue."

Shawmut spokesman Vincent Loporchio acknowledged that "there's a certain amount of prestige that goes with the Fortune 500." The soon-to-be- swallowed Shawmut came in 479th.

Fortune has been doing its famous 500 lists for 40 years. The magazine said it expanded the eligibility because of a restructuring in the U.S. economy "as rapid and deep as the Industrial Revolution of the last century."

"Phone companies compete with broadcasters. Software manufacturers offer personal finance services. Airlines sell mutual funds. Automakers write insurance," the Time Warner publication said. This amounts to "a massive reordering of business" as we know it.

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