When it comes to assessing the merits of merging Citicorp and Travelers Group, corporate America is clearly divided.
Executives at large corporations are cheering the proposed combination, lending their seal of approval to the one-stop shopping approach to finance. They said they like the idea of dealing with a financial behemoth that can offer everything from bank loans to equities to insurance.
"There is no downside to the merger," said David Rickard, chief financial officer of RJR Nabisco Inc., New York. "To the degree it gives them strategic benefits, more power to 'em.
"I like to see my banks gaining more strength."
But executives at some smaller businesses found much to dislike in the proposed combination. Some said dealing with the new Citigroup would be a frustrating experience as personalized service is replaced by automated phone centers and other systems.
"The larger they get, the less knowledgeable and less sensitive they get to the needs of small business," said Ronald P. Walker, president of Walker & Co. a Washington, D.C. firm with 20 accountants.
"They just credit score you and you get a loan based on technology."
The merger partners are touting the new Citigroup as "the world's preeminent U.S.-based universal bank." Through Travelers' Salomon Smith Barney unit, Citigroup would command significant market share in several investment banking businesses, including stock and bond underwriting and mergers and acquisition advisory.
Citicorp, meanwhile, brings to the new company lending relationships with multinational corporations around the world, and the ability to offer services like cash management, securities custody, loan syndications, and foreign exchange. Through Travelers Property Casualty, Citigroup would also be able to offer commercial insurance.
The broad menu appeals to some longtime Citicorp customers.
"We view it as a big positive," said Robert Fitzsimmons, senior vice president and treasurer of Finova Group Inc., a commercial finance company based in Phoenix."It looks like they're combining the best elements of investment and commercial banking."
Citicorp has led a flurry of loans for Finova in recent years. Just last week, a unit of the banking company led a $100 million bond deal for Finova.
"It's going to be a huge organization with a lot of firepower," Mr. Fitzsimmons added. "The potential is there for the two groups to work together in a combined fashion and provide some real value-added for a company like ours."
The Treasury Management Association, a corporate treasury trade group in Bethesda, Md., also came out in favor of one-stop shopping.
Nolan L. North, vice president and assistant treasurer at T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., Baltimore, and a member of the TMA's government relations committee, said he liked the idea of dealing with a single relationship manager for everything from bonds to credit to insurance. A deal like that between Citicorp and Travelers would allow that.
"If I do not have to keep teaching a whole bunch of new people about my company, that is beneficial," he said.
Many Citicorp clients said they liked to see their bank involved in such a groundbreaking deal. The proposed transaction would be the largest merger of all time.
"I am pleased to see Citibank continue to strive to be the preeminent financial service organization," said Robert Galvin, chief financial officer of Nine West Shoes, White Plains, N.Y.
"I like to entertain different points of view and different perspectives, so I'll always talk with more than one banker in the process. But it's nice to know that something you have a relationship with can provide one-stop shopping."
Mr. Galvin has turned to Citicorp for a revolving credit, accounts receivables securitization, cash management and debt financing.
Executives at some smaller companies that use Citicorp for basic cash management and depository services were less enthusiastic.
Neil Godfrey, president of E-Funds Corp. a Tustin, Calif.-based provider of merchant services, said he feared the technological snafus that could occur when Citicorp and Travelers attempt to integrate their back office systems.
"If you think you have data processing problems now, wait until you see some of the new ones," he said.
Another customer of both Salomon Smith Barney and Citicorp expressed similar fears about the integration of the two firms. Amerco, a Reno-based rental truck company, used Salomon for its initial public offering in 1996 and Citicorp for other services.
As the two firm combine, they will need to decide who will handle the Amerco account, said Gary Horton, the company's chief financial officer. Service is likely to suffer as that decision is made, he explained.
But even some small companies see value in the deal. Ginny Kim-Kennedy, owner of Key Resources, a San Francisco temporary staffing company, said she is looking forward to seeing what type of products Citigroup would offer.
"I've needed to take services from three banks to get the best service for the business," she said. "It would be more expeditious to have everything under one roof."