Skeptic to the Core

In an unusually frank report, Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. bank analyst Nancy Bush castigated as "unacceptable" a recent presentation by executives of CoreStates Financial Corp.

Focusing particularly on the bankers' refusal to reveal data about CoreStates' vaunted technology services, she wrote two weeks ago: "We think that a few lessons should have been learned over the past three years." The biggest lesson "is that there is nothing unique about being a bank and that |trust us' is simply no longer good enough."

Ms. Bush, who has brushed with the Philadelphia bank before, also found it "a bit scary that this company has publicly stated that it wishes to grow to $100 billion in assets" from $22 billion at present. "[W]e can only trust that it will be able to judge the profitability of prospective acquisitions better than it can judge its own," she wrote.

CoreStates chairman Terrence Larsen never returned a call that Ms. Bush made to warn that she was issuing the report, she said. Most investors, she added, reacted favorably to her candor, although a few - along with some analysts - found the report "unfair."

Ms. Bush values CoreStates as "a good long-term holding." But "believing the numbers," she adds, "is a leap of faith."

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