When Joseph Wahed turned 60 last January, he didn't expect to be work- ing for a community bank anytime soon. After 27 years at Wells Fargo & Co., he was its chief economist. And he had worked at Bank of America before that.

But when Wells suddenly announced a month later that it was eliminating its own economics staff and that of merger partner First Interstate Bancorp, Mr. Wahed barely had any hesitation.

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