are mergers' economic rewards. These gains may be wiped out, however, if bank investment managers do not move swiftly and aggressively to merge trust and investment processing services. The faster you move, the more you save. Some institutions decide to blend their systems into a compatible whole. Others opt to reconfigure various systems into a completely new entity, creating an original look and feel. Most often, the parties to an acquisition select a conversion-based process. In this scenario, one institution's system is designated as dominant, and the other's accounts are converted to it. Our analysis of more than 50 conversions involving 200,000 accounts in the last 18 months has uncovered inherent challenges. Here are a few of the most daunting hurdles, and the best ways to overcome them:

The most critical factor in a rapid conversion is top management support. Without it, a conversion process will have disappointing results simply because top management's goals were not made clear from the start. Before embarking, get top-level support from the merging organizations. Then pull in staff throughout all levels and operational areas. Be mindful that many employees will be fearful of losing their jobs. Their involvement must be directed with sensitivity. Select a provider who will assign a conversion team focused exclusively on your project-a team with skills learned from dealing with similar conversions.

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