Consumer assets are like All-Star free agents: Everyone wants them, but only those who can get to the table first with the promise of reliable, high-yield relationships will win them. That means bankers have to take a long, hard look at their financial institutions and decide if they have what it takes to get to market first with convenient, high-yield products and services and then determine what they're willing to risk to get there. Bluntly put, bankers have to realize that they alone arguably don't have the expertise to cost effectively achieve their asset objectives in an acceptable time frame, nor is it desirable to tie up money acquiring the expertise. But what bankers do have is the ability to strike aggressive partnerships with companies that will enable their firms to achieve their goals and grow their market share.

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) partnership with Canada-based Northern Telecom (Nortel) exemplifies the creative alliances that banks need to form if they are to survive in the 21st century's highly competitive, commoditized market. In one deal, CIBC, a $133 billion-asset (USD) institution, has incorporated the technology expertise and development dollars of Canada's leading telecom company, and even more, the bank is now able to aggressively pursue a captive consumer base of 3,000 at Nortel's headquarters complex.

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