Saying it would further refine - not abandon - its branch banking system, PNC Bank Corp. has named Frederick J. Gronbacher executive vice president and manager of consumer banking.

He succeeds William Schenck 3d, who announced last month he was leaving PNC to head California-based Great Western Financial Corp.'s consumer banking business.

Mr. Gronbacher, who's been with PNC since 1987, had formerly been deputy manager of consumer banking.

"Fred's demonstrated leadership and management experience in both consumer banking and systems operations will be invaluable in assuring that our customers' needs are met through either our traditional or alternative delivery systems," said PNC chairman and chief executive Thomas H. O'Brien.

One measure PNC will take to achieve that delicate balance, Mr. Gronbacher said, is to build a superstore branch in an undisclosed Pennsylvania market.

Five surrounding branches will be closed, according to Mr. Gronbacher, and their customers funneled to the new, bigger facility, as well as to telephones. Like other banks, PNC has consolidated branches; this will be its first superstore.

"The point is, you can have five branches with limited functions, or you can have one superstore," said Mr. Gronbacher, 52. "As long as people want to drive the extra mile, you can still very effectively deliver your services."

Consumer banking is the biggest of PNC's major lines of business, ahead of corporate banking and asset management. In 1994, consumer banking (which is composed of private, mass market, and mortgage banking) contributed 47% of earnings, up from 35% in 1993, analysts said.

PNC operates more than 500 branches in five states and has assets of $62.8 billion. After pending acquisitions, it will have more than 900 branches in six states and more than $70 billion of assets, making it the nation's 11th-largest bank company.

"If you look at where retail banking is going, it's evolving very rapidly," said analyst Michael Durante of McDonald & Co. "Their goal is to make the experience more interesting and a lot more intense, whether on the phone or in person."

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