danger of falling into second- or third-tier roles. Two strategies have emerged to avoid that fate, and the bitter battle among three of France's largest banks reflects the conflict between these approaches.

Strategy No. 1 focuses on building a huge and highly profitable domestic business, paying scant attention to investment banking and the global scene. That strategy is being pursued by the $381.3 billion-asset Banque Nationale de Paris, France's second-largest publicly traded bank. It is also the route being taken by a number of big U.S. banking companies, such as Bank One Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co., and by most British and Canadian banks.

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