NEW YORK -- Chase Manhattan Corp. plans to merge its upstate subsidiary. Chase Lincoln First Bank of Rochester, into the company's lead bank in New York City.

After swallowing up the 106-branch upstate network, Chase Manhattan Bank will boast 300 branches in New York State and deposits of $20 billion.

Part of a Pattern

The move, announced to Chase employees last week, comes as banks across the nation are revising their intermarket and interstate branching strategies in an attempt to maximize efficiency.

Chase, which will apply to regulators this week to merge the units, says the aim is to improve marketing. A single entity can offer standardized products statewide.

"We will be able to leverage our marketing capabilities across the state," said David Nolan, a Chase spokesman in Rochester. "Our goal right along has been to establish a single business entity to efficiently serve our customers."

The $97.4 billion-asset Chase bought Lincoln First Bank - which now has $6.2 billion in assets - in 1984. The acquisition has been viewed as one of the few successful upstate ventures by a New York City bank.

Efforts Thwarted

Many other money-centers' attempts to branch northward were greeted by the kind of local hostility and employee discontent that frequently mark interstate mergers.

Indeed, Bank of New York Co. and Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co. significantly scaled back or totally dashed their upstate ambitions in recent years.

"Chase did the best job but they didn't really penetrate the market," said Lawrence W. Cohn, an analyst at PaineWebber Inc. "They just bought a good bank."

Donald L. Boudreau, Chase's regional banking executive, took great pain in an internal memo to explain that Chase Lincoln's local identity will be preserved.

"I am convinced that local orientation will continue to have significant value in our efforts going forward," Mr. Boudreau wrote.

Chase Lincoln's seven "regional presidents" will continue to serve as chief executive officers of the metropolitan markets they oversee, he wrote.

During the past 2 1/2 years, Chase has combined many of the upstate bank's operations with those of the flagship bank in Manhattan. Data centers were consolidated, Chase Lincoln's mortgage servicing portfolio was folded into Chase Home Mortgage Corp., and its credit card processing moved to Chase U.S.A. in Delaware.

Mr. Cohn said the merger would bring some minor cost savings be eliminating separate call reports and boards.

The merger, subject to approval from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, is expected to be complete by Jan. 1.

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