CHARLOTTE, N.C. - For Hugh L. McColl Jr., the future is always within reach. In 1988, when Nationsbank Corp.'s predecessor had only $29 billion of assets and was confined mostly to the Carolinas and Florida, Mr. McColl gave a speech to business students at Catawba College near Charlotte. He predicted that a new class of mega-regional banks would soon emerge to compete directly with the New York-based money-centers, traditionally the locus of banking power in the United States.

"With technology going in the direction it is, you won't have to be at the money center to have a money center bank," Mr. McColl told the students. "You could have those financial institutions located anywhere - even down the road in Charlotte."

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