Analysts speculated that a move last week by Reading, Pa.based Meridian Bancorp to expand its chairman's office would help the bank's efforts to remain independent.

The bank said last Thursday it would add two positions to its four-member executive staff to beef up its management team and focus on technology operations.

Meridian brought in a CoreStates Financial Corp. veteran, William Fenimore Jr., 50, to fill the newly created position of chief technology officer and head of strategic planning.

"Expanding the office of the chairman is a sign to me that selling out to a larger bank over the near term is not going to happen," said Gerard Cassidy, an analyst at Hancock Institutional Equity Services.

The bank also promoted P. Sue Perforty, 41, from executive vice president for retail banking to take charge of Meridian's marketing efforts. She will now be a group executive vice president for strategic marketing and distribution system development in addition to her current responsibilities

Ms. Perrotty won accolades for increasing Meridian's branch system from 150 offices in Pennsylvania in 1986 to the current 333 branches in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Meridian's chairman and chief executive officer, Samuel McCullough, said the action would allow him to formalize his staff of advisers.

"Leadership at the end of this century and the beginning of the next century is about managing our three greatest assets - our technology, our customer relationships, and our people," he added.

Mr. McCullough, 55, began building the office of the chairman in 1992. Besides himself, he included Ezekiel S. Ketchum, 59, president and chief operating officer, Thomas Strohm, 45, executive vice president and assistant to the chairman, and David Sparks, 50, vice chairman and chief financial officer.

Mr. Fenimore comes to $15.2 billion-asset Meridian after 29 years with Philadelphia-based CoreStates. He had been chief executive officer of a subsidiary, CoreStates Hamilton Bank, when he left in March. He also held the title of executive vice president for strategic planning and business development for CoreStates' check-processing and related payment services subsidiary, called Transys.

"We believe the use of intelligent technology is going to make a difference, by marrying the planning functions with the use of technology," he said about his new role at Meridian.

Mr. Fenimore said he left CoreStates just prior to a management restructuring because he and the bank had "philosophical differences" concerning the future direction of Transys. Neither he nor CoreStates would elaborate.

Some analysts speculate that Mr. Fenimore was squeezed out of CoreStates. But all observers agree his move to Meridian was a coup for the Reading-based bank.

"He comes with experience and he comes with the ability to help Meridian because of the company, he worked for," Mr. Cassidy said.

In a separate move, the bank also named William Holland, 51, an executive vice president and head of human resources. Mr. Holland, 51, most recently served as director of human resources for the University of Pennsylvania.

In his new role at Meridian he will report to Mr. Sparks.

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