Acquisitions will continue to be crucial to profitable growth, according to a group of regional bank chief executives who addressed an investors conference here last week.

Norwest Corp. chief executive Richard M. Kovacevich told those at the Montgomery Securities conference that he would keep buying banks because he views them as national distribution offices. Bank branches are still the most effective sales centers, he said. Last year, Norwest added 279 branches, mostly through acquisitions.

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