Confirming a plan it disclosed six months ago, Commerce Bancorp Inc. of Cherry Hill, N.J., announced Wednesday that it would open more than 30 branches in Manhattan during the next five years.

The first two are slated to open this fall.

Commerce, which currently has 16 branches in Northern New Jersey but none in New York, plans to expand throughout the entire metropolitan market, said Vernon W. Hill 2d, its chairman and chief executive officer.

To head its New York operation, the $8.5 billion-asset company has hired David S. Slackman away from Atlantic Bank in New York City, where he served as executive vice president of retail banking.

Expanding into Manhattan is part of Commerce's overall plan to become a $20 billion-asset company with 320 branches in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware by 2005. It now has about 150 branches. This year Commerce plans to add about 30 new branches in eastern New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware as well as the two in Manhattan.

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