To cut down on operational and regulatory expenses, BankAmerica Corp. is merging its Chicago bank into its primary banking subsidiary in San Francisco.

Company officials last month applied with the Office of Comptroller of the Currency to designate the $15 billion-asset Bank of America Illinois a branch of Bank of America. BankAmerica entered Chicago three years ago by acquiring Continental Bank Corp., a large wholesale commercial lender.

The move to change the Chicago bank into a branch is part of a national consolidation of BankAmerica's bank charters, said a spokeswoman.

The move doesn't affect the structure of the bank's retail operations in Chicago, which now consist of 50 supermarket offices. Those branches are part of Bank of America FSB, the savings and loan subsidiary of the $251 million banking giant.

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