The story is familiar: A company frets over its ability to serve customers and anticipate what they need before they need it. This nightmare causes sweat-soaked nights and is driven by competitive paranoia and technological impotence.

In this case, the subject is Merrill Lynch, the Wall Street juggernaut whose millions of individual customers and $1.3 trillion in assets under management makes harnessing customer data even more critical. The solution: build a firmwide data warehouse that gives users in the private client group access to data on the desktop.

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