AS GROWTH in the sale of mutual funds and annuities begins to trail off, banks are taking a new look at a very old product. A variety of banks are smitten by the high commissions that life insurance offers, but it's still not clear whether this will be the next step in fee income. Pullout section WASHINGTON: THRIFTS are about to pony up almost $6 billion to get their insurance fund up to a 1.25% reserve ratio. You might think, with all that money at stake, that 1.25% was arrived at using the best actuarial and mathematical skill the nation has to offer. Actually, as deposit insurance guru Bert Ely puts it, it's "a totally arbitrary figure." Page 4 ARTHUR J. MURTON is FDIC Chairman Ricki Helfer's choice to lead the agency's newly created insurance division. Page 4 COMMUNITY BANKING: CANADIAN and U.S. bankers will compare notes in Des Moines this week at the ABA's Agricultural Lenders Conference. Page 14 CREDIT UNIONS: ED GALLAGLY, president of Florida Central Credit Union, says some of his peers are overlooking a profitable market: the poor. Page 12 WALL STREET POWERHOUSE Bear Stearns wants to do business with credit unions. Most investment banks consider all but the largest credit unions too small to be clients, but Bear Stearns says it thinks it can succeed by attracting enough of them. Page 12 MORTGAGES: BANK OF AMERICA remained California's biggest mortgage lender in the first nine months of the year, but out-of-state competitors including NationsBank and Norwest units have become big players. Page 15 "DON'T REST on your laurels," an Andersen Consulting partner told lenders at the ABA's home equity conference. "Over 50% of you here won't be in financial services in four years - and the winners in your business probably will not come from your industry." Page 15 INVESTMENT PRODUCTS: AS BANK EXECUTIVES eye future fee income from their maturing mutual funds, they may be overlooking some obvious ways to generate profits now. Experts say a few simple steps can boost immediate returns. Page 8 MERGER PARTNERS Fleet and Shawmut have made preparations to combine some of their mutual funds. Page 9 CREDIT/DEBIT/ATMs: DE LA RUE FORTRONIC, which makes smart-card terminals, suddenly found itself without a distributor when U.S. Wireless pulled the plug on its Direct Data subsidiary. But De La Rue took advantage of the point of sale terminal marketer's employee pool.

Page 16 TECHNOLOGY: INTUIT has a deal to acquire privately held Galt Technologies, a pioneering Internet service provider that distributes mutual fund information to cyber-savvy investors. Galt's Networth service is one of the more popular stops on the World Wide Web.

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