Bank customers in Texas and New Mexico got a peek at the new BankAmerica Corp. last week as the company merged its computer systems, rolled out its unified consumer products, and launched its new logo in both states.
As of late Friday there had been no report of the severe mishaps with customer accounts that are commonplace in the wake of bank mergers. Bank officials in Texas said they did not anticipate any problem beyond common, workaday glitches.
Last week's systems merger, bank officials said, was the first step in unveiling the company created Sept. 30 in the combination of NationsBank Corp. with the old BankAmerica.
"We'll be able to prove the promise of this new company," said J. Tim Arnoult, president of the 10-state central region for BankAmerica.
He said customers would benefit from greater convenience and better service, as well as an ubiquitous branch and teller machine network. The company operates 398 branches in Texas and 1,400 teller machines.
The company was formed by the merger last year of Charlotte, N.C.-based NationsBank and BankAmerica Corp. of San Francisco.
The new company, based in Charlotte, would be called Bank of America Corp. if shareholders approve the new name at the end of this month.
The banking giant has $618 billion of assets and is second in size only to Citigroup among the nation's banking companies. It operates in 22 states.
The only states where the premerger companies overlapped were Texas and New Mexico, which is why the company chose to merge computer systems there first.
More than 300 NationsBank branches in Texas were renamed Bank of America on Friday. The company closed 111 branches, mostly former BankAmerica offices.
But even the remaining BankAmerica offices changed signs to introduce the company's planned new logo. BankAmerica also sold 17 branches in December to BOK Financial Corp. of Tulsa, Okla., as part of an antitrust divestiture required by the Justice Department.
Mr. Arnoult said converting the 300,000 BankAmerica customers to the NationsBank system posed smaller risk than would some upcoming tasks.
In July, 1.4 million customer accounts in Arizona and Nevada are to be converted to the former NationsBank computer system.
This will be a much larger test because more customers are involved, Mr. Arnoult said.
"Every time we do one of these conversions, we learn something," Mr. Arnoult said. The Texas job "prepares us for the rest of the West."
A series of name changes is slated for banks in all states where the company does business. The largest computer conversion involves the former BankAmerica's California customers, who will be merged into the NationsBank system in September and October 2000.
Mr. Arnoult said one aim of all the hard work is to create a feeling of unity in the combined company. "Those things go beyond logo, new colors, and new signs," he said. "One of the things you've got to deal with is the building of a new culture."
While the rollout was touted by BankAmerica officials, a competitor in Texas showed little interest.
"I think it's just more of the same," said Richard Evans, chief executive officer of Cullen/Frost Bankers Inc. in San Antonio. "It's still us competing with the megabank. We continue our relationship approach and community banking approach."
"Who cares?" asked William Strunk, a Houston-based bank consultant. "The people down here didn't like Bank of America or NationsBank."
Mr. Strunk acknowledged that merging systems and creating a new brand is difficult but said it is of little consequence to consumers and businesses.
"They make a big deal out of it, but the customer doesn't care about your problems," Mr. Strunk said. "They care about whether their bank statement is screwed up."
BankAmerica's Mr. Arnoult said the company has taken a lot of care to avoid any customer disruption.
"If you believe that, Hugh McColl is my brother," Mr. Strunk said, referring to BankAmerica's chief executive officer.