In tandem with likely passage of federal legislation permitting big banks to open branches throughout the country, the merger trend turning financial giants into behemoths is moving at whirlwind speed. The summer has seen three huge consolidations -- one in New York between Chemical Bank and Manufacturers-Hanover, one in the southeast quadrant between NCNB and C&S Sovran and now the latest on the West Coast between BankAmerica and Security Pacific. Only Citicorp will outrank them in assets.
If these are mega-regional banks, it is only a matter of time before the nation sees coast-to-coast operations emerge. In an earlier day, such moves would have sent the Justice Department's anti-trust division wheeling into battle. Part of the olde tyme America mystique, riveted by the Great Depression, was a fear/suspicion of big banks.
Yet with U.S. institutions falling off top global listings as Japanese and German conglomerates move to the fore, the Bush administration has embraced bigness as the way for the United States to compete worldwide. Rather than resist consolidation, the federal government is encouraging it not only through regulatory policies but through legislation that has now received committee approval in both the Senate and the House.