Bank to cut 200 jobs Md. layoffs at Signet follow purchase by First Union

97 branches to be closed

Top executive in state to quit

hundreds of Va. workers on way out

November 21, 1997|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

First Union Corp. will eliminate 200 jobs in Maryland -- almost all of them downtown -- when it completes its acquisition of Signet Banking Corp.

In addition, Kenneth H. Trout, president of Signet's Maryland region, will resign when the $3.3 billion takeover is completed Nov. 28.

J. William Knott, president of First Union/Maryland, said yesterday that the 200 employees, most of whom work in Signet's downtown office tower at 7 St. Paul St., have already received pink slips. Signet employs 1,148 people statewide and 265 of them work downtown.

"As we look at the size of the market, obviously we weighed all of the people and what we needed to accomplish our goals," Knott said.

In all, 97 branches will close in Virginia, Washington and Maryland -- 78 of which are Signet's.

Signet and First Union announced the acquisition in July. First Union said it will cut 1,700 jobs in all, most of which will come from Signet's Richmond, Va., headquarters. At the time of the merger, Signet had about 4,000 employees.

The metropolitan Baltimore area will be left with 62 First Union branches after the consolidation is finished.

In Baltimore, the employee cuts will come in a number of areas, including commercial real estate, leasing operations, cash management and student lending.

Knott said many of the employees would have lost their jobs regardless of the acquisition because Signet had already targeted them as part of a company-wide restructuring.

He said the company is working to help displaced Signet workers find jobs. "We are trying to make some connections through our human resources department with other companies who are hiring people in the area," Knott said.

Laurie B. Schwartz, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc., a nonprofit group set up to improve downtown Baltimore's business climate, expects that First Union will end up creating more jobs than it cuts.

"We're hopeful that these short-term job losses will be followed by long-term growth since this is intended to make a strong banking institution," she said.

Schwartz noted that in Roanoke, Va., and Jacksonville, Fla., where First Union has made acquisitions, the number of jobs has increased.

Knott said that First Union may add as many as 70 jobs in the first quarter of next year in its consumer banking operations.

Baltimore isn't the only city suffering from the banking industry's wave of consolidation.

This week, First Union, the nation's sixth largest banking company with about $204 billion in assets, said it would acquire Philadelphia-based CoreStates Financial Corp. for $16.1 billion in stock in the biggest banking deal ever.

CoreStates employs 20,000 workers, and it is unclear how many will lose their jobs.

Carl W. Stearn, chairman of Baltimore-based Provident Bankshares Corp., said layoffs are so high in banking deals because that is one way acquiring institutions can justify the hefty prices they're paying to buy competitors.

"At the same time, a lot of these banks have been discovering that this re-engineering approach has gone beyond the amount of people you need to sustain your business. In fact, hiring in the banking business has come back somewhat," he said.

Trout joined Signet 37 years ago. He rose quickly in the company, and after a stint in Washington, where he headed commercial lending, he was named Signet Bank/Maryland's president in 1991.

He will leave the company on Nov. 28, when the acquisition is completed.

"We think the world of Ken," Knott said. "We would have liked to have kept him. It was his decision. He wants to take some time off."

Trout could not be reached for comment.

Branches to be closed

Baltimore-area branches that First Union Bank plans to close as part of its merger with Signet:

First Union branches

* 6335 Baltimore National Pike, Catonsville

* 1401-03 Rockspring Rd., Bel Air

* 10300 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia

* Reisterstown Road Plaza, Baltimore

* 9613-A Harford Rd., Baltimore

* 8900 Waltham Woods Rd., Baltimore

* 1726 E. Northern Parkway, Baltimore

Signet branches

* 38 S. Charles St., Baltimore

* 28 South St., Baltimore

* 6225 Charles St., Baltimore

* 583 Baltimore Pike, Bel Air

* Festival at Bel Air, Bel Air

* 1782 Merritt Park Blvd., Dundalk

* 511 Crain Highway, S.E., Glen Burnie

* 4115 Ritchie Highway, Glen Burnie

* 1777 Reisterstown Rd., Baltimore

* 17 Center Place, Dundalk

* 1039 E. Baltimore St., Baltimore

* 5234 York Rd., Baltimore

* 2439 Frederick Ave., Baltimore

* 10345 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills

* 8070 Ritchie Highway, Pasadena

* 4204 Ebenezer Rd., Perry Hall

* 3635 Old Court Rd., Pikesville

* 5804 Gov. Ritchie Highway, Severna Park

* 102 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Towson

Pub Date: 11/21/97

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