ABN Amro North America, attempting to drum up more business among midsize companies, has opened several commercial loan offices around the Midwest.

In the past year, the company has established offices of its LaSalle National Bank unit in Milwaukee, Indianapolis, and Grand Rapids, Mich. Last month, the Dutch banking giant established offices in St. Louis and Des Moines.

M. Hill Hammock, executive vice president and chief credit officer for LaSalle, said the Chicago-based unit has longtime ties to Midwest businesses through a correspondent network of 500 banks. Mr. Hammock said the new offices place LaSalle closer to some of its correspondent partners, and opens opportunities to directly solicit loans in some major markets.

"We have found an entrepreneur that owns his own business wants to know that his banker is close at hand," Mr. Hammock said.

LaSalle has about $7 billion in commercial loans outstanding in the Midwest, and about 15% are outside Chicago, Mr. Hammock said.

The LaSalle move is similar to a strategy by BankAmerica Corp. From Bank of America Illinois, its large Chicago commercial bank, the San Francisco giant has targeted Midwestern cities for sales blitzes and small offices to garner more middle-market business lending.

So far, BankAmerica has hired commercial lenders in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Grand Rapids, and plans to expand elsewhere.

The moves by the Chicago units of ABN Amro and BankAmerica to reestablish a physical presence in other major Midwest markets echoes an earlier strategy.

Chicago banks have long targeted large industrial cities, such as Detroit, Minneapolis, and St. Louis to court companies that may want an alternative to local lenders. But Bank of America Illinois' predecessor, Continental Bank Corp., had cleared out of those cities in the 1980s when banks were reeling from losses on real estate loans and foreign debt.

LaSalle had individuals based in other cities who worked with correspondent banks, but later consolidated the jobs in Chicago.

But whereas such outlying offices might have been a harbinger of a full- blown branch or an acquisition in that market, that's not necessarily the case today, said Marcus Acheson, executive vice president and head of BankAmerica's commercial banking business.

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