NOWADAYS, THE success of a merger is often measured by how quickly it took place. But a bank in Rockford, Ill., has taken an alternative approach.

"I guess you could say that we've created our own assimilation model, one that's a lot slower that most," said R. Richard Bastian 3d, chief executive officer of what is now Bank One Rockford. "We purposely violated the rules that say slam everything together; take all the damage up front and then do the cleanup later."

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