A Fed study contradicts the growing belief that branches are becoming expensive relics. Page 2

Now that Congress has lifted restrictions on them, telecommunications firms are expected pose a real threat to banks' precious customer relationships. Page 4


Sanwa Bank has named Kazuyoshi Kuwahata, a 23-year veteran of the company, head of the office of the president at its California subsidiary. Mr. Kuwahata previously held posts for the Tokyo-based company in London, Tokyo, and Los Angeles. Page 7


An OCC study found that Midwest farm banks had improved their underwriting policies, but Comptroller Eugene A. Ludwig wants them beefed up further. Page 8

The pending merger of BayBanks and Bank of Boston is making some Massachusetts community bankers rethink their willingness to see the state raise its cap on deposit share. Page 9


OUR MONTHLY report on electronic money and payments makes its debu today. FutureBanking will help you tell the reality from the hype - and take action. As consultant Bobby Mehta says in this issue: "The world isn't going to collapse around you in the next two years - but you do need to get going." Pullout section


The federal government has declined to indemnify two regulators being sued by the former head of an Iowa credit union, at least for now. Page 10

The credit card unit of the Credit Union National Association lost $19.7 million last year, largely because of capital investment and a botched technology deal. Page 11


The chief lobbyist of the National Association of Home Builders has been dismissed, reportedly over turf battles arising from his role in a campaign to save the mortgage interest deduction. Page 13

Homeowners aren't as affluent a group as they used to be, according to an annual homeowner survey by Chicago Title and Trust. Page 13


The money pouring into mutual funds will increasingly come from retirement plans, wrap accounts, and other long-term investments, said experts at a trade group conference. Page 14

The new manager of bank sales at John Nuveen, which specializes in muni bond funds, faces a special challenge trying to sell them in a stock boom. Page 14


American Express has formed a business unit to focus on increasing card acceptance by health care providers. Page 18


The number of checks written in the U.S. could start sliding as soon as next year, says the CEO of Deluxe Corp., the nation's biggest check printer. Page 20

The Visa-Microsoft alliance announced last week will give banks more flexibility and control in their PC banking efforts, observers say. Page 20


Fed rate cuts a be fueling a speculative bubble in financial markets at the same time the economy is cooling off, according to one economist. Page 24

Bankers Trust and Japan's Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank will act as AAA-rated counterparties in derivatives deals. Back page

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