Norwest Corp., moving toward its merger with Wells Fargo & Co., could become a source of talent for other Minnesota financial institutions.

As part of its $34 billion pact, Norwest would move its headquarters to San Francisco, where Wells is based, and eliminate 830 jobs in its home base of Minneapolis.

Already, Minneapolis rival U.S. Bancorp is running newspaper advertisements aimed at the back-office workers Norwest is most likely to leave behind.

The display ads are headlined, "We're a leader in the banking industry because we hire people who can lead." The ads seek people in operations, information systems, finance and accounting, and sales and product development-all areas likely to be hit by merger-related layoffs.

U.S. Bancorp officials declined to comment.

Meanwhile, "if community bankers' business grows in the metro area from the spillover from this merger, they're going to need some very professional people," said Allen I. Olson, president and chief executive officer of the Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota.

Norwest, for its part, said it would like to keep as many people as possible. Chairman and CEO Richard M. Kovacevich repeated the phrase "retain and retrain" when announcing the Wells Fargo merger a month ago.

The company is not concerned that its employees will be cherry-picked by competitors, a spokesman said.

But veteran banking analyst Ben Crabtree of Dain Rauscher Inc. in Minneapolis said the Wells Fargo deal could have a big impact on all levels of employees. He said upper-level Norwest managers with roots in Minnesota may not be keen on moving to the coast.

"I wonder what portion of the senior management would seriously wrestle with moving to San Francisco and paying three times as much for the same house," Mr. Crabtree said.

Minneapolis has long been a cutthroat employment market, with local powers Norwest, U.S. Bancorp, and TCF Financial Corp. fiercely competing for talent.

TCF chairman and CEO William A. Cooper said he is not actively recruiting Norwest employees but added his company is always looking for good technology and systems people.

Mr. Cooper said he is relieved that Mr. Kovacevich is leaving town.

"A lot of commercial business is done here because they know Dick (Kovacevich), they know the boss," he said. "I'd just as soon the boss be in California."

A midwestern executive recruiter said Norwest has not been a good source of upper-management talent. The company has not created depth at the higher levels, he said.

Though Mr. Kovacevich and Leslie Biller, president and chief operating officer, are well regarded, they are not Norwest born and bred. Mr. Kovacevich came from Citicorp and Mr. Biller from BankAmerica Corp. and Citicorp. Few of their senior peers rose through the ranks.

Even former Norwest executive Scott A. Kisting, who was hired as chief operating officer of Citizens Financial Group of Providence, R.I., last year, was groomed at BankAmerica before joining Norwest in 1990.

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