Longnaecker has also put off buying a new car to replace her 1987 model because of reservations about job security.

"There are certain expenses you don't go out and do because of the uncertainty," she said.

Debbie Jett Kessel said her first reaction was less one of fear and more one of sadness when First Interstate, her employer of 27 years, was acquired by Wells Fargo. Kessel, who now works at City National Bank, said personal finances were less a concern because of a lucrative severance package she got upon leaving First Interstate.

"You go through stages from shock to sadness," she said. "It takes a while for reality to set in. And since I'd been with the bank for so long, those were the emotions I felt. It's like your parents getting a divorce."

Kessel also may have felt less panicked than Longnaecker because she and three of her former First Interstate colleagues all of them agricultural loan specialists had agreed to stick together and market themselves as a group.

"It was like safety in numbers. For me to go out and market myself would have been extremely frightening," she said, adding that she didn't even have a r & #233;sum & #233; prepared at the time of the layoffs.

Kessel also noted that "line unit" people like herself those who can bring clients to a new employer generally have an easier time finding new jobs in banking than "staff" people, who have no regular contact with customers.

Dan Morefield, who also left First Interstate in the Wells Fargo takeover, said such mergers take a big toll on productivity and can hurt morale.

Morefield is currently director of business banking at Great Western Bank, which is the subject of a takeover battle between two rival bidders H.F. Ahmanson & Co. and Washington Mutual Inc.

"We're an industry that's going through consolidation, and consolidation means pain. Even if the outcome is good, it's still a difficult time a time that creates a lot of stress," he said. "Instead of rolling out new products, we're busy talking about the effects of the merger."

Morefield, Kessel and Longnaecker said most of their former colleagues have found work since the most recent layoffs, and most of those who have found work are still in banking-related jobs.

But there are thousands who have left the banking industry altogether. In many cases, these ex-bankers often capitalize on their banking skills to find employment in the financial divisions of non-banking companies, according to Kessel.

"Some have gone to positions like controllers and chief financial officers, while others have gone to title companies and other financial service companies," she said.

Marilyn Milam, formerly a senior credit officer at First Interstate, now performs similar work at the L.A.-based corporate finance group of Finova Capital Corp., a commercial finance company.

"I just took a look at what the opportunities were, and this was the best opportunity," she said, noting that she didn't consider getting out of the banking industry because it was consolidating, she said.

Meanwhile, Longnaecker said she'll continue to knock on wood and hope her fourth and current employer, Glendale Federal, doesn't get acquired before she has a chance to retire.

"I only have 10 more years," she said.

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