First Midwest Bancorp said Friday it will lay off 180 employees, or 15% of its work force, and take a $4.5 million pretax charge in the fourth quarter as part of a restructuring plan.

The cost-cutting measure is intended to save the Naperville, Ill.-based bank $8 million, before taxes. The bank also hopes to lower its efficiency ratio from 66% to 60% by the end of 1996.

The bank holding company, with $2.5 billion in assets, is consolidating its four independent commercial banks into one. James Roolf, a bank spokesman, said First Midwest is responding to a change in Illinois law last year that forced the subsidiaries of a holding company in different regions to operate under separate charters.

The reorganization means the bank won't have to maintain separate charters for each unit, nor will it have to carry the cost of separate regulatory examinations.

Savings also will come from cutting back office positions. However, no loan officers or other employees that deal directly with customers will lose their jobs; the bank said.

The fourth quarter charge will be used to pay employee severance and related costs.

Robert O'Meara, the bank's president and chief executive officer, said the bank could not delay the restructuring. "If the reorganization were not to proceed even more positions would be at risk over time."

The bank operates 41 offices and has about 80% of its assets in the Chicago metropolitan area.

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