Nowhere is the disparity between Wells Fargo & Co. and Norwest Corp. more apparent than in the field of subprime consumer finance.

Norwest Financial, with more than $9 billion of assets and a hundred years of history, is one of the largest bank-owned finance units, rivaled only by NationsCredit, a NationsBank Corp. subsidiary. Bank and nonbank competitors alike point to the Norwest unit as a marvel of successful cross-selling.

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