The proposed merger of Keycorp and Society Corp., a long-distance union that would create a $58 billion-asset company with operations in 18 states, has created a big buzz among investors and analysts as to whether the companies have achieved the best value for shareholders.

Keycorp chairman Victor Riley and Society chairman Robert Gillespie argue that the merger creates a perfect synergy: Keycorp has a far-flung retail branch system across the northern U.S. while Society has a strong line of trust and investment products to hawk through the system. Moreover, the two executives claim that the "cultures" of their banks are complementary.

But American Banker wanted to know what bankers themselves think of the wisdom of the so-called merger of equals.

Fortuitously, the announcement of the merger came the same day that executives of major midwestern bank companies were gathered in Cleveland--the home of Society--or a banking conference sponsored by McDonald & Co., a local brokerage firm.

The critique of the deal from Banc One chairman John B. McCoy--whose company was rumored to have approached Albany, N.Y.-based Keycorp about a buyout--was excerpted from remarks he made as a keynote luncheon speaker at the conference.

The other remarks came in response to questions posed by American Banker.

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