Attorney H. Rodgin Cohen proclaims himself an optimist about the future of banking. The 56-year-old chairman of the New York-based law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, and perhaps the nation's most prominent banking attorney, sees a healthy, profitable future for the industry. But he also voices a host of concerns, from the pressure of meeting unrealistic earnings expectations to the tension between federal regulation and the desire of states and municipalities to have a greater say in how banks do business.

"I perhaps am more optimistic than many, because I continue to believe that the banking industry can be profitable," Cohen says. "I believe that the industry is a viable one, which a lot of people seem to doubt." He even sees a benefit to the economic climate getting tougher: "It will make banks focus on what they need to do to retain profitability."

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