Bankers have hacked away at their expense base for years, holding countless quarterly conference calls in which they talk about run rates, best practices and so-called "low-hanging fruit." At one point, every big and midsize bank seemed to be boasting of an initiative that would cut spending to the bone.

Yet bankers and consultants agree: Companies could trim still more fat if they are willing to dive deeper into their operating expenses. Some believe that another 20% of spending can be cut from annual budgets, with the best targets being outsourcing contracts for software, transaction processing, property maintenance and other services.

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