Nobody said pushing financial services reform through Congress was going to be a cakewalk.

"I know we're all frustrated," said Preston Martin of Martin Associates, a San Francisco financial services firm.

The former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board urged bankers attending the Bank Securities Association's annual conference here to contact their representatives.

"My experience has been that you do get a response from these legislators if you lay out the benefits to consumers and the risks," he said.

Getting involved in the legislative process was one of speaker Eugene A. Ludwig's "10 Commandments" for surviving in the 21st century.

If a financial reform bill that is economically disadvantageous passes, it could put banks "right back behind the eight ball" where they were several years ago, said Mr. Ludwig, vice chairman of Bankers Trust Corp. and former comptroller of the currency.

He also urged banks to diversify their revenue stream and their risks, exploit the potential of cross-selling, and increase their focus on branding.

It is not all smooth sailing for banks that buy brokerage firms, said two executives whose companies recently made deals.

KeyCorp of Cleveland had to assure employees of McDonald & Company Investments Inc., also of Cleveland, that it was not planning layoffs, said Kathleen A. Dennis, a senior managing director of Key Asset Management Inc. The banking company bought the broker-dealer in October.

KeyCorp also had to offer large retention packages, which raised some eyebrows on the bank side, she said.

Wachovia Corp. of Winston-Salem, N.C., has also heard rumblings from bankers over retention plans offered to employees of Interstate/Johnson Lane Inc., said Ellen Sartin, senior vice president of Wachovia Investments Inc.

That deal, announced in October, is expected to close April 1.

Though it does not plan to make major changes to its sales force, Wachovia has not decided what to do about customers that have relationships with both companies, she said.

The full-service operations will be called IJL/Wachovia, she said, though "IJL" eventually will be dropped. Discount and on-line brokerage will be offered through Wachovia Investments.

Amid all the consolidation in financial services, it's important for a bank to present a unified brand image.

"Every company should have a very clear role it wants to represent to people," said Claude Singer, senior vice president at Siegel & Gale, a New York branding firm.

Mr. Singer urged banks to look for opportunities to communicate their message. He also stressed the importance of defining a unique, credible, and relevant brand that will speak to consumers and employees.

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