THE BARRIERS to the insurance business - barriers of attitude no less than law and regulation - crumbled in 1996. American Banker examines the complicated decisions banks now face. Pullout section


After suffering repeated legal losses, the government is expected to ask that limits on credit union membership be lifted until the Supreme Court decides whether to hear the case. Page 2

Bankruptcy filings surged 25.9% in the 12 months ending Sept. 30, hitting an all-time high of 1.1 million, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts announced. Page 2

The American Bankers Association lobby has made a major comeback, and its director of grassroots programs has played a pivotal role in its resurgence. Page 4


Asian-Americans on both coasts are seeking to start up ethnically owned banks in New Jersey and California that will cater not only to minorities, but also to underserved mainstream markets. Page 8

Florida's banking regulator is proposing a new state savings bank charter that's being billed as an option for credit unions and federal thrifts. Page 8


INSURANCE: A few insurance companies, using easy-to-obtain thrift charters, have been quietly marketing banking products like mortgages and credit cards. Industry insiders are now predicting that other companies will follow suit. Page 13

Many owners of investment marketing firms are leaving the business, but two brothers are just getting their company off the ground. Page 13

Union Bank of California's private bank wants to expand beyond lending into investment management. Page 14


Visa International and American Express recently won victories against each other in Latin America. Page 18


At the Bank Administration Institute conference in Dallas, Microsoft courted the industry with a variety of its bank technologies, including Money personal finance software and the NT operating system. Page 20


While there were only a few large deals in November, the next major wave of bank mergers is on its way, according to a major new survey of industry consolidation activity by Salomon Brothers. Page 25

ABN Amro's deal to buy Standard Federal has Wall Street buzzing about who will be the next to capitalize on the U.S. thrift merger trail. Page 25

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