On paper, the strategy is irresistible: snap up a brokerage house, a mortgage company, or an asset manager and prepare to reap bountiful fee income while firming up ties to customers. So hoping, one bank after another this year has announced ambitious acquisitions of nonbank financial companies.

These deals, however, are notoriously difficult to execute. In addition to contending with the normal operational challenges of mergers, banks buying nonbanks may have to bridge enormous cultural gulfs.

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