It's an article of faith in banking that start-ups need three years to reach profitability. But a new generation of de novo banks is shattering this time-honored rule.

More than half the banks launched in 1994 and the first half of 1995 broke even within 18 months. By contrast, fewer than one-third of banks started in the second half of 1993 matched that record, according to data from Sheshunoff Information Services.

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