The Society-Keycorp collaboration has provoked great skepticism, but Robert W. Gillespie and Victor J. Riley Jr. have introduced a new dimension into the consolidation of the U.S. banking industry.

Mr. Gillespie's and Mr. Riley's much-touted merger of equals will form the nation's 10th-largest banking company, with $58 billion of assets and nearly 1,400 offices spanning 18 states.

Unlike most bank mergers, where cost-cutting is a major rationale, the Society-Keycorp union is based on revenue enhancements. Mr. Gillespie, 49, brings trust, specialty finance, and large corporate banking expertise to the table; Mr. Riley, 62, brings mortgage and middle-market banking skills.

Wall Street has distanced itself, citing a relative paucity of cost cutting opportunities and uncertainty over the scope and timing of expected revenue gains. But Mr. Gillespie and Mr. Riley may prove smarter than the Street.

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