It is a fundamental truth of the Information Age: Financial services companies that provide valuable information electronically to customers and prospects are able to retain and attract assets. The problem: Most banks, weak in both the content department and in ferreting out new, untraditional partners, are struggling with how to develop "customer-centric" businesses.

The key objective is to leverage the strength of a software company's generic content and build a solution that further delivers on banks' specific financial expertise. "That's an opportunity," says Lewis Levin, vp of Microsoft Corp.'s financial desktop division, responsible for Microsoft Money, Investor, Marble and the Microsoft-First Data Corp. payments venture.

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