In early September the management teams of Chase.com and LabMorgan - rivals in online financial services - met for drinks.

Their parent companies, Chase Manhattan Corp. and J.P. Morgan & Co., had just announced an agreement to merge, and it was time for the two units to get acquainted. Each, having been charged with developing strategies to propel their companies to prominence on the Internet, sized the other up with a mixture of wariness and curiosity.

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