When Citicorp and Travelers Group merged in October 1998, banking and insurance experts universally hailed the deal as the beginning of a new era in financial services in the United States: the one-stop financial superstore.Indeed, given the emergence of technologies that enable companies to slice and dice customer data to pinpoint cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, the Citicorp/Travelers combo was viewed at the time as a powerhouse that would set the stage for similar deals.

But that never happened, even after the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which dismantled the regulatory walls prohibiting banks from owning insurance companies. With the news Jan. 31 that Citigroup was selling Travelers Life & Annuity to MetLife for $11.5 billion, it now appears that the grand vision that John Reed and Sanford Weill promoted in forming Citigroup was more of an illusion than a market reality.

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