FirstMerit Corp. in Ohio has acquired five banks and thrifts in the past two years - and with each purchase it ended up facing more competition than it had bargained for.

In all five deals, executives of the $10.1 billion-asset Akron banking company knew they would be going up against entrenched giants such as Bank One Corp. and KeyCorp. What they did not count on was at least one start-up bank opening in each of the markets.

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