Two big northeastern banks filled top posts on Thursday.

KeyCorp, based in Albany, New York, tapped James R. Waterston, a 22-year veteran of Detroit's Comerica Inc., to run its subsidiary banks. Mr. Waterston, 50, was vice chairman of Comerica and president of its flagship bank.

State Street Boston Corp. elevated its newly recruited president, Marshall N. Carter, to chief executive. Mr. Carter joined the $13.3 billion-asset bank in August from Chase Manhattan Corp.

State Street, which also announced a two-for-one stock split on Thursday, said Mr. Carter will become chairman when William Edgerly, 65, retires in December 1992.

State Street's stock closed Thursday at $60 per share, up 50 cents from its close on Wednesday. KeyCorp's shares closed at $37.125, down 50 cents.

At KeyCorp, which has $23.4 billion of assets, Mr. Waterston takes a new post as chief banking officer. His retail duties at Comerica Bank, which is merging with Manufacturers National Corp., will be assumed by Joseph G. Horonzy, who now runs corporate banking.

KeyCorp also announced the appointment of Gregory Dillett as chief administration officer in charge of its nonbank units.

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