Charles Schwab Corp., which built a business acting as the investment cradle to millions of investors staked a claim to its customers' golden years with a $2.7 billion deal for New York banking company U.S. Trust Corp.

While noteworthy as the first financial services convergence transaction since the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 (see story page 4), the deal also puts San Francisco-based Schwab, which almost perpetually reinvented itself since its founding in 1971 as a no-frills discount brokerage, in direct competition with industry heavyweights like Merrill Lynch & Co.

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