In the marriage between First Union Corp. and Wheat First Butcher Singer Inc., the two will maintain separate residences.

Wheat First bankers and researchers will remain in Richmond, Va., where the securities firm is based.

Their colleagues at First Union Capital Markets, the home-grown securities division at First Union, will remain with its parent company in Charlotte, N.C.

Since the merger deal closed last week, the two firms have become separate divisions within First Union's section 20 unit. That makes First Union different from some other banking companies that have recently bought securities firms.

Bankers Trust New York Corp. and NationsBank Corp., for example, have each folded their newly acquired investment banks-Alex. Brown & Sons and Montgomery Securities, respectively-into their section 20 units.

Analysts are divided over which approach is the best. Some said First Union would create better synergy by integrating Wheat First more completely into its operation. But others say the bank's plan will be less disruptive.

Tony Davis, a bank equity analyst with SBC Warburg Dillon Read Inc., said a rapid integration of First Union and Wheat First would not work.

"I think over time, as the comfort level improves, they will become closer," he said.

Executives at First Union said their approach is designed to avoid tampering with a good thing.

They are counting on Wheat First, an equities and mergers and acquisitions boutique acquired for $491 million last week, to propel First Union into the equities underwriting business-the one capability its homegrown capital markets group lacked.

"They've done the equity part of the business for years so we left that management in place," said Jerry Schmitt Jr., who has been managing director and head of First Union Capital Markets Group since its formation in 1994.

The equities business will operate under the name Wheat First Union and remain in Richmond, Va. Wheat First Union will also include Wheat First's retail brokerage operation, which has about 1,000 brokers. But First Union's retail brokerage, which has about 3,100 brokers, will remain separate.

First Union Capital Markets will inherit Wheat's much smaller fixed- income staff of 35.

First Union has a larger presence than Wheat in both the investment grade and high-yield debt arenas. Mr. Schmitt's division will continue under the name First Union Capital Markets.

Mergers and acquisitions will be housed in Wheat First Union.

The combined staff of 20, which includes some First Union executives, will report to Wheat First's Welly Sanders. First Union executives said they plan to expand that department through new hires.

Mark Gamble, former president of Wheat First, has been named president of Wheat First Union.

He said he is adding to his research staff to build expertise in industries that First Union serves through specialized lending groups. These include energy and insurance.

Although First Union has decided not to uproot former Wheat First equities staff, both sides have begun cross-selling their services. They have about a dozen deals in the pipeline resulting from cross-marketing in the five months since announcing the intended merger, according to First Union.

The first such deal closed in December. Wheat First managed a $79 million secondary stock offering for a First Union client, Charlotte-based Coinmach Laundry Corp.

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