executive of First of America Bank Corp. over the last decade, said he will hand the reins over to president Richard Chormann on May 1. Mr. Chormann, who turns 58 Monday and is three years younger than Mr. Smith, stressed continuity of the Kalamazoo, Mich., company. And that seems to suit analysts of the $23 billion-asset banking concern just fine. "It's pretty much business as usual," said Michael Moran, an analyst with Detroit-based Roney & Co. "Dan Smith is turning over a car in good shape," said Joseph Stieven of Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., St. Louis. "The question is, how fast can that car go?" Mr. Stieven said a recently completed reorganization should put First of America on a strong operational footing. The plan included the consolidation of 20 bank charters into four and the elimination of 1,800 jobs. Stifel, Nicolaus said First's efficiency ratio - expenses as a percentage of revenues - of 66.7% for the first half of 1995 trailed the 63.5% average for the 35 Midwest banks the firm tracks. The bank wants to lower its ratio to 60% within two years, a goal Mr. Stieven said is attainable. "They're either going to get their operations on track or someone will do it for them," Mr. Stieven said. Mr. Moran said he sees an orderly transition. Mr. Chormann has been with the company 37 years - the last 10 as president and chief operating officer. Mr. Smith, who recently marked his 40th anniversary, said that with the reorganization in place, it was a logical time to retire. The two executives have played different roles. Mr. Smith, who served as president of the American Bankers Association last year, has the higher public profile, while Mr. Chormann has been more of a behind-the-scenes executive. "Dan is the proverbial Mr. Outside and Dick is the proverbial Mr. Inside," Mr. Moran said. The company is on many lists of acquisition candidates. Its earnings have been diluted by acquisitions of its own in Florida and Illinois. But Mr. Chormann dismissed suggestions that First of America's independent days are numbered. "My own view is consolidation is going to continue, and I think it should," Mr. Chormann said. "However, we can't lose focus. We want to continue to grow." Mr. Smith conceded "growth hasn't been anything spectacular." But he said the company must act like an acquirer, not an acquiree.
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