The head of Chase Manhattan Corp.'s check and commercial loan operations plans to retire from the bank later this month.

Stephen E. Kopiec, a 27-year check processing veteran, began his career with Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co., a predecessor of today's Chase.

He has been the check operations representative of Chase or its predecessors to a variety of associations, including the Electronic Check Clearing House Organization, the New York Clearing House, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, the American Bankers Association, and the Bank Administration Institute.

Upon his departure from Chase, the 55-year-old vice president plans to move to Arizona and become a freelance consultant specializing in payment systems.

But his reasons for leaving the bank are as much personal as professional. The move will let Mr. Kopiec and his wife Margaret (a former Bankers Trust executive) spend more time with their children, Stephen, 6, and Catherine, 4, whom they adopted as infants.

"They are adding so much to our lives," Mr. Kopiec said. "We'd like to watch them grow up."

In his new role as consultant, Mr. Kopiec plans to examine "the electronification of checks," and, "how emerging payments mechanisms over the Internet" will affect them.

Because of his experience in managing float, Mr. Kopiec is known in the bank's inner circles as the banking industry's first "floatologist," said Vincent R. D'Agostino, senior vice president at Chase.

He earned the title while overseeing portions of Manufacturers Hanover's merger with Chemical banking Corp. in 1992. "One day we walked into a meeting and some guy yelled out, 'Here come the floatologists!'" said Mr. Kopiec.

The designation came in handy when Mr. Kopiec's wife was hospitalized with a sudden illness and he was trying to visit her.

Mr. Kopiec said the staff at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York was making it difficult for him to see her until he declared, 'Not only am I her husband, I'm her floatologist.'

"They let me right in," he said.

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