Banks in the United States have long eyed insurance as an avenue to increased revenues. Judging by the experience of banks in Europe over the last two decades, however, they may be chasing a mirage.

This became more evident when Britain's National Westminster Bank PLC found itself the target of a $35 billion hostile takeover bid by Bank of Scotland. That move was precipitated by a 6% crash in Natwest's stock price after its offer to buy the British life insurance company Legal & General for $17 billion-plus.

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