WASHINGTON

Noting a trend toward consolidation of holding companies into as few units as possible, the comptroller of the currency said the government should back off and let banks determine what corporate form to use. Page 3

REGIONAL BANKING

First Union is betting heavily on the future of telephone banking, launching an aggressive campaign in Georgia to sign up new accounts through its telephone bank. Page 4

MARKET MONITOR

Wells Fargo started a trend by using cash-flow analysis to convince Wall Street that the First Interstate deal made sense; now other banks are following. Bank analyst Carole S. Berger says cash flow correlates better than earnings to the stock prices of the 50 banks that Salomon Brothers follows. Page 25

An upgrade for Alex. Brown & Sons shares has helped the brokerage shake off the dubious distinction of being one of Wall Street's least-favored financial stocks. Back page

COMMUNITY BANKING

Shareholders of Massachusetts' Abington Savings Bank rejected a proposal by a California hedge fund to cut costs by 20% or sell the thrift. Page 6

Two small San Diego banks are crafting a merger of equals to help stave off incursions by bigger foes. Page 6

SMALL-BUSINESS BANKING

Merrill Lynch is teaming up with the National Association of Woman Business Owners to provide access to sophisticated financial planning and discounts on the service. Page 10

KeyCorp has formed a new leasing unit to make a stand on turf traditionally ruled by nonbanks - equipment leasing for small businesses. Page 10

INVESTMENT PRODUCTS

Banc One may be the next bank to jump on the "fund of funds" bandwagon, as it looks to adopt the novel investment strategy for its 401(k) retirement plans. Page 12

TECHNOLOGY

M&I Data Services has formed alliances with Intuit Corp., Microsoft Corp., and others to enable its banking clients offer a menu of services via personal computer. Page 16

Chase and a medical claims services are offering a service aimed at streamlining the processing of workers' compensation claims. Page 17

CREDIT/DEBIT/ATMs

As the market for stored value cards takes shape, regulators are finding themselves in a bind, hemmed in on one side by current laws and on the other by a reluctance to appear to endorse one product over another, writes Sharon Heaton. Page 18

MORTGAGES

A new study suggests mortgage securities are insulated in the long term from the impact of natural disasters. Says who? Duff & Phelps, the credit rating firm. Page 20

In testimony to the power of understatement, Norwest Mortgage got 250 leads from a tiny newspaper ad it ran in a Boston-area daily for a few weeks this spring. Page 20

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