The banking business is changing. It's dying. It's not a growth industry anymore." Unsettling words, particularly from a major bank CEO who has presided over a period of unprecedented growth for his institution.

The speaker was Ed Crutchfield, chairman of First Union Corp., the country's ninth-largest bank holding company. At the helm of that bank for more than 20 years, he's acknowledging the fundamental changes in consumer behavior that many other bankers seem to be ignoring - or, at least, dismissing as unimportant. He states bluntly that banks have given short shrift to the one fundamental source of power within each franchise: the total buying capacity of the retail customer.

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