The story is familiar: Company frets over the ability to serve customers and know what they need before they need it. This nightmare causes sweat-soaked nights and is driven by competitive paranoia and technological impotence.

In this case, the subject of the story is no ordinary company: Merrill Lynch & Co., the Wall Street juggernaut whose millions of individual customers and $1.3 trillion in assets under management makes the challenge of managing customer information all the more critical.

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