many sources agree that the proposed merger of Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand was driven by the consulting businesses. One of its chief objectives: build mass and competencies in financial services information technology (IT)-one of the fastest-growing sectors of the market-to rival that of Andersen Consulting.

Little redundancy within the firms' financial services segments will allow them to bring great "synergy" to the new entity, says Rocco Maggiotto, chairman of Coopers & Lybrand's global financial services practice. For clients, the firms' complementary IT consulting practices-PW is known for its SAP, Oracle and PeopleSoft specialties; Coopers for its more generic systems integration abilities-mean capabilities that extend from strategic planning to system implementation.

The combined firm will also be able to leverage its new global presence to become the systems integrator of choice for emerging direct banks. "It's going to give us the ability to compete...head-to-head against Andersen on these large, legacy integration systems that (will) support home banking, electronic banking and electronic commerce," says Gary Meshell, director of PW's electronic financial services practice. And since both firms maintain that micropayments and stored value schemes will take off, they can ostensibly leverage existing relationships with Mondex and CyberCash.

The merger could also shore up what both firms admit they lack in meeting clients' IT needs: resources. The new firm could combine R&D and training programs, both major fixed costs, says Don Nicolaisen, senior partner in PW's financial services group.

Still, some skeptics doubt it will be enough to catapult the firm into Andersen's league. "Even combined, they're still considerably behind Andersen Consulting in major project implementation- and outsourcing-type capabilities," says Ladd Willis, evp of First Manhattan Consulting Group. FB

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