Preserving capital at all costs is the rule of the day - or likely the year - as banks cut IT projects, compensation, bodies and dividends. Hunkering down is now the national obsession, with consumers ratcheting spending back so far that the U.S. personal savings rate hit 5 percent in January, the highest since 1993. That's an admirable trait in a different time, but every dollar not spent is a dollar that doesn't go toward stimulating a still-spiraling economy.

The same's true of bank spending, particularly cutbacks in technology investments that a bank can use to innovate its way out of trouble. TowerGroup estimates financial institutions' IT spending will fall by nearly four percent from 2008 through 2009, the first such decline in history. Even worse is where the decline will come from. Senior research director Virginia Garcia found that spending on new technology - as opposed to relatively routine outlays for replacement or maintenance costs - will decline by 11 percent this year.

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