Building on an unprecedented melding last year of the banking, securities, and insurance industries, 1998 is shaping up to be the year of the financial conglomerate.

"The marketplace is demanding a convergence of the industries," said Steven Ollenburg, president of Principal Bank, the newly chartered thrift owned by Principal Mutual Insurance Co. "The financial services industry has to figure out a way to do it. There isn't much of an option."

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