An explosion in foreign investing has sent the largest U.S. banks on a global mission to provide securities-related support services. As these big providers work out the kinks, they are likely to lead other banks into charted territory.

It has been almost 20 years since a handful of big pension fund managers first began investing in overseas markets. Today, in a continuing search for higher returns and risk diversification, insurance companies, mutual fund companies, banks and even individuals have joined the pension funds in trading outside the borders of the United States.

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