Observers are split on whether banks would gain or lose from Fidelity Investments' pending acquisition of Broadway & Seymour's trust systems business.

The Boston-based mutual fund giant announced last week that it would pay about $30 million for Broadway & Seymour's asset management services group. The group's Amtrust software is used by 14 of the nation's 50 largest banks.

On the plus side, the deal could improve bank access to investment product services offered by Fidelity, which has $373 billion in mutual fund assets.

In addition, the banks could benefit if Fidelity used its deep pockets to enhance the unit's technology. Fidelity executives said the trust business is rife with opportunities for technological innovation. That suggests plans for upgrades and new products.

However, bankers are wary of putting their full trust in a nonbank competitor.

David B. Stephens, an executive vice president at Comerica Inc. of Detroit, said he hoped Fidelity would remain committed to servicing the banking segment of the business. He said he expected the company to continue devoting resources "in ways that would support banks."

Comerica bought Amtrust software from Broadway & Seymour last year.

"I think we will all be watching with great interest the statements that Fidelity makes in the near future regarding its strategic intentions," Mr. Stephens said.

He said he supports Fidelity's purchase because the fund company is the best "when it comes to designing and making commitments to technology that meet customers' needs."

He added that the banking industry needs to get more comfortable with developing partnerships with competitors - especially in light of merger and acquisition activity.

"Fidelity is a formidable competitor," he said, but "there is no reason why we can't do business with them for our mutual benefit."

Mr. Stephens noted that Comerica has an alliance with PaineWebber to provide trust services to PaineWebber clients. He said the Fidelity deal could yield similar opportunities.

But others, noting how nonbank financial providers have siphoned off bank customers and deposits in recent years, wondered if Fidelity's role as a competitor of banks would color the way it serves serve them.

Rick Leib, president of SEI Corp.'s investment services group, said Fidelity's purchase might be a case of "letting the fox into the henhouse." SEI, based in Wayne, Pa., competes with the Broadway & Seymour new unit.

Mr. Lieb said it took years to build SEI into a service bureau devoted to trust accounting and asset management for its bank customers.

He said he wondered if small customers of the Broadway & Seymour unit will get as much attention as they do now when giant Fidelity owns it.

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