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Gearing up the tandem

The combination of Chase and Chemical always held the prospect of creating a foreign-exchange giant able to challenge Citibank's number-one position. But for the former Chemical managers - who dominate the new operation - the tough challenge will be to integrate the two banks' very different styles: can the old Chase's customer-oriented salesmen pedal at the same speed as Chemical's traders? By Steven Irvine

April 9, 1996. Dawn is breaking over London. Down by the Thames in Vintners Place, weary technicians, who've worked 28 hours non-stop, are coaxing into normality the last of a bunch of temperamental computer feeds. Eight months of planning and a four-day Easter weekend of frenetic activity are about to reach their climax.

The trading-room is switched on almost without a hitch. Worldwide, the integration of 28 trading centres of the former Chase Manhattan and Chemical Bank passes off smoothly as foreign-exchange dealing starts. By 8 am the most serious remaining problem involves two traders who find themselves sharing an intercom. And chief economist Robin Marshall discovers that the logo on his wall - the important backdrop for television interviews - is from pre-merger days. This is the new Chase, reborn in the old Chase Manhattan's London foreign exchange headquarters.

But observers might be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into the former Chemical Bank operation. That's because most of the bosses in London now are Chemical alumni. Few former Chase Manhattan personnel are left on their old trading-floor. Many of the traders and salespeople had gone before the Easter break, some of their own volition, others victims of the cost-cutting exercise that had driven the merger.

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