While Wall Street firms and money managers courted mutual fund companies and asset managers last year, commercial banks were like wall flowers as they watched expensive deals pass them by.

The only bank to boldly step up and dance with a fund company was First Union Corp., which purchased Keystone Investments Inc., Boston, for about $183 million last September. First Union's chief executive, Edward E. Crutchfield Jr., has publicly stated his desire to amass $100 billion of assets under management by 2000.

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