If you're waking up in a cold sweat these days, worried about the future of your business, you're not alone.

What frightens bank CEOs is the future earnings performance of their banks. The market expects them to achieve sustainable 17% return on equity and 6% earnings growth. Since 1993 was a year of record profitability for banks, one might wonder why they're so concerned. I can think of two acquisition-minded institutions that for the past several years have grown 30% and 10%, respectively. And yet when you strip out their deals, they both grew only 2%. Their ability to generate value internally is not being fully realized. Why?

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