Bank of America announced plans to invest $500 million in inner-city businesses as part of President Clinton's push to fight poverty. Page 2

Sentiment is mounting in Congress to reform federal crop insurance laws to better protect farmers against low prices and bad weather. Page 2


Austria's biggest bank is entering retail banking in Moscow, becoming one of the few foreign banks to launch consumer financial services in Russia. Page 3

As bank competition intensifies, an old promotional tool-paying consumers for subpar service-is appearing more often and increasing in scope. Page 4


Merrill Lynch has hired five investment professionals from Deutsche Asset Management to form a new unit. All had worked at the former Bankers Trust. Page 8


California consultant Joe Garrett is more optimistic than he was four years ago, when he sold his own thrift and advised other lenders to get out of the business. He now recommends customer data mining as a way to avoid post-refi-boom price wars and enhance the lender's brand. Page 9


Provident of Baltimore is counting on supermarket branching to raise its profile in the Washington suburbs and take it into northern Virginia. Page 5

Stung by a slowdown in mortgage refinancings, a newly public California bank said its earnings would fall 50% short of an analyst's estimate. Page 5


SMART CARDS: Publicard has agreed to an acquisition that would let it expand into the college smart card market. Page 6

A French company is promoting a new reason for buying into smart cards- customer satisfaction-and offering a product to provide some. Page 6


Pacific Century, which owns Bank of Hawaii, says that big plans for Southern California were behind the decision for its bank there to continue outsourcing. Page 10


Bank stock analysts are jumping on the bullish bandwagon, with most predicting a rising market. Back page

Buffeted by lawsuits, Providian has hired a senior executive to help its public image. Back page

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