Dec. 21, 2004

Building on an unprecedented melding last year of the banking, securities, and insurance industries, 1998 is shaping up to be the year of the financial conglomerate," American Banker predicted last January. Four months later, Citicorp and Travelers Group announced the largest-of-its-kind merger, creating a $70 billion financial supermarket offering customers both protection and investment products under one roof. Analysts see the formation of more Citigroup-like organizations as an inevitable result of falling barriers between banking and investments and insurance. This convergence, as it's described, is heralded by new technology allowing the instantaneous flow of information around the world, by consumer demand for lower prices and added convenience, and by loosening regulatory restrictions worldwide. Naysayers, recalling reengineering and focusing on core competencies, point out that few of the industrial conglomerations of the 1960s have survived. If the merger craze continues, what will the financial services landscape look like in 10 years? "There surely will be fewer and larger institutions. Today's 9,000 banks will likely shrink to about 3,000," predicts Lawrence J. White, professor of economics at New York University's Stern School of Business. The large global institutions that arise will exist side-by-side with regional and local firms offering services that the giants cannot match. Charts: Top 25 International Accounting Networks Largest International Banks Leading U.S. Banks Top 50 U.S. Property/Casualty Insurers Most Active Venture Capital Firms 50 Leading U.S. Security Brokers, Dealers, And Investment Advisors World Stock Exchanges

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