Charles Schwab Corp.'s agreement to buy U.S. Trust Corp. may be remembered as the first major crossover merger of the financial reform era, but its roots can be traced to another high-profile deal of two years ago.

In many ways that earlier pairing, a January 1998 deal that united the toniest of New York banks - J.P. Morgan & Co. - and the Kansas City, Mo., fund company American Century Investments, was a turning point for banking companies looking to compete on Wall Street with increasingly powerful asset management operations.

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