Vice president Chemical Banking Corp., New York

Paul Loucas once dreamed of working for the Central Intelligence Agency. After earning a degree in geography and urban planning, he applied with the CIA for a job drawing maps of enemy military sites.

Mr. Loucas didn't get the job (the agency wasn't hiring because of budget cutbacks). But he ended up using his skills for another kind of warfare.

As head of distribution planning for Chemical's regional banking group, Mr. Loucas, 34, plays a major role in one of the bank's most important and risky projects: closing 80 branches in the New York region.

The branch closings will contribute an estimated $125 million in cost savings by 1994. But the project carries considerable risks, and missteps could cost Chemical millions in lost business.

Competitors are hoping to pick off Chemical customers who are upset with branch closings. Many have already launched marketing campaigns designed to attract Chemical customers and are planning more attacks this year.

Mr. Loucas's job is to make sure that branches are closed with minimal disruption to customers and maximum cost savings. The jobs involves careful analysis of branch demographics, customer retention procedures, real estate investment, space requirements, construction, and local competition.

"We're trying to take a more holistic approach," says Mr. Loucas, who joined Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co. as a business analyst in 1980. Hanover merged with Chemical last year.

During the late 1980s, Hanover acquired branches with nearly $3 billion in deposits. As head of branch network planning, Mr. Loucas oversaw the company's valuation and pricing analysis. He was also responsible for the opening of six branches that eventually brought in an additional $100 million in deposits.

Last year, Mr. Loucas developed the branch integration plan for the Chemical-Hanover merger, identifying 80 pairs of branches -- one to be closed and the other to receive the incoming business from the closure.

Chemical closed just a handful of branches last year. Mr. Loucas and other members of the merger transition team have monitored the closings closely and say that service disruptions were minimal and most customers remained with the bank.

The real test comes this year when the majority of branches will close. "What we're doing has a long-term impact on the bank," he says.

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