Fleet/Norstar chairman Terrence Murray has some advice for chief executives who want to make a megamerger pay off: Be ruthless, decisive, and get over the unpleasantries quickly.

Mr. Murray, who said Fleet is on target to integrate the former Bank of New England into its fold, offered those and other tips in an interview last week with American Banker.

In his nine and a half years at the helm of Rhode Island-based Fleet/Norstar Financial Group Inc., Mr. Murray has converted it from a midsized regional into a $46 billion-asset giant that ranks as the nation's 15th-largest banking company and perhaps the strongest in New England.

Fleet's 1988 merger with Norstar Bank of Albany, N.Y., which doubled its size, is seen as a model of consolidation. Analysts said Fleet's success in integrating Norstar helped it win over the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in last summer's hotly contested bidding for Bank of New England's $14.5 billion of assets.

'Absolute Authority'

Mr. Murray, 52, offered the following acquisition tips:

* "Someone has to have absolute authority," he said. Appointing comanagers or taking other seemingly politic approaches rarely works, he added. The formula applies to both the kingpin and members of the committee driving the merger.

* "Do things sooner rather than later" and begin consolidation immediately. "Don't wait. If you don't do it now, it will cost you some money."

* Don't equivocate. "It doesn't really matter whose systems you decide to use. Just use one system or the other," he said. "Don't get too detailed as to the best of this and the best of that" because it will take too many years of waffling to figure out the answer.

* Give people precisely defined goals and very tight time-tables. "Measure their compensation based on their ability to do it." And if they don't get the job done on time? "Replace them."

* Use common sense. "Make a reasonable assessment of what you could expect because it's so easy to kid yourself on things."

The banking industry in the midst of a wave of consolidation. BankAmerica Corp., Chemical Banking Corp., and NCNB Corp. each have giant mergers pending.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.