WASHINGTON

Bank profits surged 9.4% last year to another record - $48.8 billion - the FDIC said. "I don't see any reason to believe their earnings will not continue to be strong," said Chairman Ricki Helfer. Meanwhile, the number of insured commercial banks dropped below 10,000. Page 2

Conceding a bleak outlook for legislation to shore up the thrift fund, the House Banking Committee chairman proposed an interim fix: tell the FDIC to let premiums paid on any deposit in the fund cover interest on Fico bonds. Page 3

REGIONAL BANKING

The CEO of Roosevelt Financial Group in Missouri is tired of its stock being undervalued because of worries about the thrift industry. He plans to swap for a bank charter this year. Page 4

COMMUNITY BANKING

An Indiana mutual is planning to convert to stock ownership and use the excess capital generated to buy a controlling interest in a local commercial bank. Page 6

Investor Jerome H. Davis won a round in his fight with a conversion- bound Pennsylvania mutual. A federal judge refused to delay his challenge to favoritism for local depositors in the thrift's planned public offering. Page 7

INVESTMENT PRODUCTS

Union Bank of Switzerland is readying a series of initiatives aimed at quadrupling its U.S. private banking assets over the next three to five years, top executives said. Page 10

Who is to blame for American Express' flop in extending its financial planning service into bank branches? Amex blames the banks; Banc One and some analysts blame Amex. Page 10

CREDIT/DEBIT/ATMs

PMT Services is at it again. The Nashville-based independent service organization has acquired a 15,000 merchant account portfolio from UMB Bank of Kansas City, Mo. Page 11

By creating business units to focus on deposit-access services, MasterCard has adapted to the changing nature of the markets its member banks operate in, students of the industry say. Page 12

TECHNOLOGY

Verisign, a pioneer in digital authentication technology, said it will collaborate with Microsoft on standards to ensure the security of Internet messages and transactions. Page 13

Digicash of the Netherlands will make its digital cash system available through EUnet, Europe's leading Internet service provider. Page 13

FINANCE

Bank stocks roared back to life after newly released economic news showed inflation under control and unemployment falling. Back page

Two Cincinnati-based banks, Fifth Third and Provident, are planning big securitizations of car loans. Like some bigger banks, they're going to asset-backed securities to meet loan demand while deposit growth slows. Back page

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