Julie Castle, the president of the wealth management arm at First Interstate BancSystem in Billings, Mont., said she was worried at the beginning of the year that the unit might become another casualty of poor economic conditions.

In the second half of 2008, when many small banks were divesting ancillary wealth management businesses, First Interstate Wealth Management's assets under management fell 20.1%, to $2.716 billion. That was just $16,000 more than it had under management when the banking company hired Castle in July 2007.

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