Who Won`t Be Here Next Year?

Funny, most of my friends aren`t talking a lot about their banking investments these days. Even my banker pals are much more interested in telling tales of their Nasdaq investments and the 70% or so rises those stocks experienced last year, not the minus 19% record for regional banks or the negative 16% performance of money-center banks.

Treading water in a sea of Amazon.coms, Intuits, and AOLs, it`s easy to get down on ourselves, we in the banking industry. Yet there we were, coasting into the new year, trying to be hip in today`s e-world, and who gets sacked? Not one of those hidebound bankers more comfortable with debits and credits than with bits and bytes, but Bank One`s venerated John McCoy.

John McCoy, for crying out loud! If any banker has won his New Economy spurs over the last few years, it`s him. This is the visionary who partnered with Merrill Lynch to develop the cash management account. This is the guy who made a half-billion-or-so dollar bet on the Internet`s Wingspan Bank, the clever son who took an underpowered wannabe bank in Columbus, Ohio and turned it into one of the strongest banking franchises in the country. But John McCoy was also the guy who made a big bet on credit cards, overpaid for First USA, and ultimately got canned for that most mundane of reasons for termination, lousy earnings.

So it got me thinking, this unlikely victim of 1999 did, about who we might see fall from the heights in 2000. Here are my nominees:

The gaggle of Internet banking providers that went public last year-A hot market spawned IPO newbies like Nfront, Digital Insight, Funds Express, Netzee, and who-knows-how-many-other Internet banking providers-all chasing a shrinking number of bank customers. With core service providers like Jack Henry and Fiserv finding their voice in all this, we`ll likely see a shakeout in companies providing Web banking

Those politicians who seek to outlaw ATM surcharges-California congressperson Maxine Waters tried to make a splash by demanding that banks provide ATM services free, even for nonbank customers. Who knows, this may be the year we throw out politicians who curry favor with voters by promoting silly economics that wind up depriving their constituents of needed services.

Those annoying strategic alliances and press releases that don`t mean anything-Company dreams up hot idea. Company finds other company whose stock needs a quick boost. Both companies issue breathless press release announcing hot idea and strategic alliance to develop it. No money changes hands. Hot idea never heard from again. Watch for new hot idea and new press release next week. Really, this has to stop.

Surely some of the above won`t be around with the same strength they held in 1999, but if they are, here are my runners up for the Sayonara 2000: speakers who tell me that bill presentment is the next big thing and I`d better get aboard; consultants who say now that the Y2K bug infestation is over, bank boards should pay attention to the overlooked (fill in the blank, there`s always something); Ed Crutchfield or Hugh McColl. Hey, John McCoy was supposed to be bulletproof, wasn`t he?

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