The next wave of European retail banking consolidation is at hand. Several retail banking behemoths are up against the limits of national expansion and must look across their countries' borders to find growth. Sizable cross-border mergers have already occurred in Scandinavia, the Low Countries, Spain, and Portugal. But this is only the beginning.

In this consolidating market, bigger banks will find that their enduring advantages lie in scale and reach. Their millions of customers, multichannel distribution networks, and massive investments in information technology are their greatest competitive strengths. The experience and skill of senior executives in managing these leviathans are also considerable advantages.

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