Pending acquisition: First Atlanta Corp. (name of company will change to First Wachovia Corp).

For years Wachovia, based in the heart of tobacco country in Winston-Salem, was North Carolina's dominant bank. In recent years, NCNB and First Union have grown faster. When the current phase of the acquisition spree is over, First Wachovia will rank third in asset size. Its $16.7 billion in assets will be slightly less than First Union's and well behind the $21.5-billion NCNB.

Chairman John Medlin Jr. said that, like his competitors, Wachovia's expansion is far from complete. He wants to enter Florida and South Carolina, which the other two companies have done already, as well as Tennessee and Virginia.

Wachovia has long been considered one of the best-managed banks in the nation and Medlin has several time been selected as one of the top bank executives in the country.

Until recent years, Wachovia was the North Carolina bank with the strongest national presence. Its cash management services, including lock-box operations that collect checks for companies and turn them into deposits, were a major entre into developing other business with big companies across the nation.

But like most regional banks, it considers its bread-and-butter the medium-sized companies that are closer to headquarters.

Wachovia has been characterized as more conservative than its major competitors, a label Medlin disputes. "We're somewhat deceptive. We play more of a guerilla warfare game. We don't announce our arrival with fanfare."