By serving as an incubator for high-technology companies, Bankers Trust New York Corp. is pursuing a unique and - in the venture capital sense - risky strategy for a bank.

Other big and innovative U.S. banks - notably Citicorp and Wells Fargo & Co. - are nurturing significant technological breakthroughs. Some of these activities are known publicly, such as Wells' involvement with virtual malls and the Mondex smart cards. Others are more under wraps, such as Citicorp's partially unveiled Electronic Monetary System. But most are intended for the banks' own use or to serve their strategies.

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