Officials at National City Corp. have begun ironing out which of First of America Bank Corp.'s computer systems will be integrated into its own.
Among the likely survivors are those used in First of America's consumer lending operations and its smart card programs.
Final decisions about which technology to keep and which to discard should be made by the end of the year, the banks said.
The banks said a schedule for making the conversion should be in place by the time National City's $7.1 billion stock deal to buy Kalamazoo, Mich.-based First of America closes in the second quarter. The integration is expected to be completed by October of next year, said Donald J. Kenney, executive vice president of operations for First of America.
First of America chief executive Richard F. Chormann has denied that concerns about the bank's lack of readiness to deal with the year-2000 problem were responsible for the deal. But analysts and bankers said First of America would substantially benefit from National City's debugging efforts.
When Cleveland-based Nat-ional City announced the deal Dec. 1, officials insisted that integrating First of America would be as smooth as absorbing Integra Corp., a Pittsburgh bank it acquired last year.
Although many analysts echoed that confidence, Sally Pope Davis of Goldman, Sachs & Co., cautioned that National City could have a tougher time swallowing First of America, which, unlike Integra, has a community bank-style culture, she said.
"I think this one is a little more challenging, because the system is more spread out," said Ms. Davis.
"The key to this integration is on the First of America side," she added. But National City "has willpower and is determined to make it work."
National City's purchases of BancOhio Corp., First Kentucky National Corp., and Merchants National Corp. demonstrate a long and aggressive track record of making appropriate technology choices, said Henry C. Dickson, a bank analyst with Salomon Smith Barney.
"They are a bit understated as a company, but they are doing well technologically," said Mr. Dickson, citing the bank's speedy integration of Integra, its sophisticated use of customer information, and its work on the year-2000 problem.
"It is a more complete midwestern franchise now," he added.
A successful integration of First of America would put National City in an even stronger position to compete against its Cleveland neighbors, KeyCorp and Huntington Bancshares, analysts said.
Moreover, National City should help First of America realize operational efficiencies that it was never able to achieve on its own, said Michael M. Moran of Roney & Co. in Detroit.
"The cost savings estimates may be a bit aggressive, in that the two systems have very limited physical overlap," said Mr. Moran. "But we are comfortable, given Nat City's penchant for underpromising and overdelivering."