Bank seeks centralized operations


NationsBank is taking yet another big step in creating a single bank stretching from Maryland to South Carolina.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based financial concern is seeking approval from federal banking regulators to consolidate its operations in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina and the District of Columbia into a single bank.

The reason: The company says it can save millions of dollars each year through cost cuts, and offer customers the ability to conduct all banking transactions in any one of NationsBank's 935 branches in the region, said Mary Waller, a company spokeswoman.

"The driving reason behind our consolidation is customer convenience," Ms. Waller said. "You would be able to do banking in any branch in that group."

NationsBank estimates that if it is able to consolidate all eight of its banks that operate in nine states and Washington, it will save $50 million a year.

Arnold Danielson, a Rockville-based banking consultant, said the bank's decision to merge its operations was inevitable, but he sees little upside for the company or consumers. "They are running this thing so centralized anyhow," he said. "I see no managerial advantages."

NationsBank filed its application to consolidate the operations with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. It hopes to receive permission from the agency by fall and complete the consolidation by next year's first quarter.

Large banks like NationsBank have lobbied state and federal legislators for powers to consolidate operations. Laws have required them to create separate banks and maintain boards of directors for each state they operate in. But NationsBank has won battles in state legislatures that have allowed it to consolidate its banks. In February 1994, NationsBank won permission to combine its Washington and Maryland banks into one based in Maryland. The consolidation was completed earlier this month and a headquarters was established in Richmond, Va.

The Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act, passed by Congress last year, will allow banks throughout the country to branch across state lines.

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