First Union In Review

First Union Corp. is looking to consolidate its direct marketing business, now split among more than a dozen shops, at one or two large direct marketing agencies, according to the client.
Pile and Co. here has been retained by the Charlotte, N.C., financial services company to develop a long list of contenders that will likely include New England, New York and Southeastern players as well as some of First Union’s incumbent agencies, sources said.
Pile and Co. president Skip Pile confirmed that he is in the early stages of a search but referred all other questions to the client.
First Union direct marketing team leader Mitchell Kneece confirmed that a review has begun. He said the process does not include the bank’s consumer ad business at Hal Riney & Partners in San Francisco.
He declined to discuss the process beyond that, but said the bank hopes to make a decision within 60 days.
The review is technically for the client’s corporate direct marketing account but could include divisional product offerings. Billings were estimated by one source to be at least $30 million.
Pile and Co. is assembling initial criteria for the client and is beginning to contact agencies, sources said. Geography is not a factor, but shops must have financial services and banking experience, no obvious conflicts and be large enough to absorb the account, sources said.
First Union, one of the 10 largest U.S. banking groups, controls $168 billion in assets. Its impending acquisition of CoreStates Financial Corp. in Philadelphia for more than $16 billion is said not to be a factor in the current review. –with Judy Warner