One Successful Joint VenturePer your December editorial ("The Odds Aren't Good," which said most banking joint ventures don't work), the key will likely be whom the owners select as CEO for the Forex venture you describe and the culture he/she builds.

The key is for independent, entrepreneurial management to constantly build on common interests among the participants so that they can overcome the competition. It can work--I know because I was part of what is probably the most successful operating joint venture in the history of banking: Visa.

Dee Hock's vision, the executive management team he built, and the team's superior execution during the '70s and '80s made the card business happen.

Had it been run by typical "association" managers, common to most banking JVs, the industry (and, in fact, the whole payment system business) would be very different than it is. Our core competency was not systems or marketing--it was forging a common interest among competitors.

    Bill Powar
    (A member of Visa's senior management,
    1974-1996, Bill Powar is now a private investor
    based in Palo Alto, CA.)

Wealth to Stay a Growth BusinessUpon reading the article entitled "Dream On" (December 2000), which is based on the Pricewaterhouse Coopers First Annual North American Private Banking/Wealth Management study, we were understandably surprised by its negative tone.We were even more surprised when we read the article on the following page regarding Merrill Lynch and the tactics they are using to build their wealth management business. The article's first sentence states, "Bankers who wonder why they're losing wealthy customers to brokers should heed this story."

Similar to the strong statements we used in our press release announcing the results of the survey, the author of the article obviously recognizes the need for bankers to take a hard look at their wealth management practices. This is a clear indication of the competitive nature of this market, which our survey results support.

This survey is the result of extensive interviews with CEOs of top financial institutions and the very audience your publication serves. We think you've done your readers a disservice by denouncing research that can help them better understand, and where possible, take advantage of opportunities presented by changing market conditions in their industry.

To date, we have received positive coverage of the study from The Washington Post, American Banker, FutureBanker, Bloomberg Wealth Manager, Private Banker International and Interactive Week.

We have conducted this very research in Europe four times since 1993, and the survey is met with increasing enthusiasm by the industry with each issue. This interest by the marketplace provided the impetus for conducting the survey for the first time in North America.

We would have welcomed the opportunity to discuss the survey's methodologies, results, and the validity of their conclusions, had we been given the opportunity. We regret that you chose not to speak with us directly. In the future, we hope you will contact us with any questions or concerns that you have with our research.

    Robert F. Gould, Jr.
    Partner, Pricewaterhouse Coopers
    New York

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