Harleysville National Corp. took over Willow Financial Bancorp Inc., adding 29 branches to its 55 and boosting total loans and investments to $5.5 billion, in a deal first announced in May. The sale, for Harleysville stock worth around $156 million, puts Harleysville high among the largest remaining locally-based banks that compete with national giants like Wachovia, PNC, Citizens and TD for loans and deposits around Philadelphia.

Harleysville chief executive Paul Geraghty said in a statement that the bank will save $15-20 million from the deal next year.  But James McErlane, one of two Willow directors joining the Harleysville board, says there won't be many jobs cut "because there's minimal overlap. The service areas fit like a puzzle," with Harleysville's upper Montgomery and Berks County offices connecting Willow's networks in Chester County and eastern Montco.

Geraghty is a veteran corporate business lender with National City Bank's Philadelphia office and, before that, the former CoreStates Bank. The economic slowdown hurts all lenders as it damages most borrowers; but Harleysville has an opportunity to add customers and pick up deals at a time when some capital-challenged bigger banks are cutting back, says McErlane.