Marshall & Ilsley Corp.'s decision last week to spin off its 36-year-old M&I Data Services Inc. processing unit had been expected for years.

Finally, the stark contrast between banks' and tech companies' stock prices became too much for management to bear. They realized that as a technology unit of a banking company, the data services firm, now known as Metavante, was at a disadvantage in trying to attract talent and make acquisitions.

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