Only two U.S. banking companies-Chase Manhattan Corp. and State Street Boston Corp.-have the product mix and distribution to rival the top U.S. brokerages in selling investment management abroad this year, a consultant said.
The other companies on Towers Perrin's short list of likely "global winners" in investment management this year are Charles Schwab, Fidelity, Kemper, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter, and Vanguard.
The push to expand globally in the field will depend on having "major global investment management brands"-that is, names that go beyond one product or service, said Donald E. McNees, director of Towers Perrin's New York financial institutions practice.
Chase has positioned itself with a strong proprietary mutual fund group, Vista, while building its private banking products and distribution network, he noted.
Still, "I would not say banks are at the front of the pack" of financial services companies fighting for worldwide business, Mr. McNees said. "It's not that there aren't other players on a local basis (in the U.S.)-First Union, for example. But I don't see First Union playing globally."
As banks, mutual fund companies, and brokerages vie for better distribution globally, mergers like the Morgan Stanley-Dean Witter deal will become more common, he said.
But banks have been slow to respond to demographic changes, letting much of the baby boomers' cash flow into mutual funds, and worrying instead about trust and retirement accounts, he added.
A partner at a rival consulting firm disagreed. Peter Davis of Booz, Allen & Hamilton, New York, said banks are moving quickly to become flexible.
"Merrill Lynch can deliver any product it wants," said Mr. Davis. "The regulatory barriers are an irritant that raise the cost of business."