Decades ago, with the prescience that often characterizes writers of science fiction, one author envisioned a world in which everyone lived within an isolated habitat, all his needs met through communications devices so sophisticated that there was no necessity to ever leave home.

Today we call that "cocooning," and if it has not yet reached the stage in which human contact is eliminated entirely, in many ways, it appears we are well along on that road. Nevertheless, 200 years after political philosopher Edmund Burke observed that "the march of the human mind is slow," that statement continues to resonate. For a very few, in what the "new bankers" now call the financial services industry, it's recognition of the slow pace of that march that's calling the tune. "There's a lot of hype around PC banking," explains analyst George Bicher at BT Alex. Brown. "It's a lot easier to go to the phone than to boot up your computer. Believe it or not, most people are still scribbling in their checkbooks."

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