SPECIAL REPORT: BRANDING Faced with powerful nonbank competitors like American Express and Merrill Lynch, bankers are scurrying to become conversant with brand management and the big payoffs for doing it effectively. WASHINGTON The GOVERNMENT is preparing to exempt thousands of additional businesses from currency transaction report requirements. Beating UNCLE SAM to the punch on financial reform, Maine has created a broad new charter for its financial institutions. COMMUNITY BANKING Two NORTH CAROLINA banks are having an unusually public dispute. After Peoples Bank rejected its buyout bid, Carolina First appealed directly to stockholders. INVESTMENT PRODUCTS Bankers Trust launched a charitable foundation for its private clients that will lend to poor people abroad. CORPORATE FINANCE Clients of Robert-son Stephens have a piece of advice for BankAmerica as it prepares to buy the investment banking firm: Don't rock the boat. "If there is an exodus of key people, there will be an exodus of banking relationships," says the head of one firm Robertson took public last year. Honeywell's chief financial officer discusses its banking relationships. MORTGAGES ABN Amro has reshuffled top management at Standard Federal, which it bought May 1, assigning two of its own executives to top posts. Commercial Credit is the newest contender in the battle for dominance in consumer finance. CREDIT/DEBIT/ATMs CARD FRONTIERS: A Michigan electronic funds transfer network has paired up with a regional credit union to test a smart card program. Metris hired a retiring MasterCard senior vice president. TECHNOLOGY Coopers & Lybrand's technology consulting unit has allied itself with Cybercash to promote electronic commerce services. MARKET MONITOR A string of setbacks for a subprime auto lender has one analyst wondering if the relationship with its prime benefactor is headed for the scrap heap.

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