Magazine article American Banker

B of A: Branches Are First, Deals Possible in Chicago

Magazine article American Banker

B of A: Branches Are First, Deals Possible in Chicago

Article excerpt

Bank of America Corp., which has been pretty clear about its plan to build a retail branch network in Chicago, sounds open to making acquisitions there as well.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday inside its first Chicago retail branch, chairman and chief executive Kenneth D. Lewis said the Charlotte company "wouldn't rule out the possibility" of buying in Chicago, though its emphasis is branch-building.

It has identified another seven Chicago-area spots (Mr. Lewis would not pinpoint them) where it will open branches this year and build from its private-banking clientele. It plans to open as many as 15 Chicago branches in 2003 and 50 over three years.

Bank of America is one of several large banks that have been elbowing into Bank One Corp.'s home turf, prompting Bank One to go on a retail offensive of its own. Many out-of-towners have gained market share in Chicago through acquisition, and Mr. Lewis said Thursday, "I do not think investors want us to be blind" to such opportunities.

There are plenty of signs -- such as out-of-state banks' names on branches and ATMs everywhere -- that a retail-deposit war is brewing in the area. The brand-new B of A branch is across the street from the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, and branches of locals LaSalle and Oak Bank are nearby. Mayor Richard Daley was at the morning ceremony to welcome Mr. Lewis and the bank to the neighborhood.

If the Chicago initiative succeeds, B of A will take it to New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, Mr. …

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