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Meet your new European bank: the financial cornershop

Public-sector banks in Europe have hit on a new and potentially profitable idea. They're trying to turn themselves into localised versions of the universal banking model. Who are some of the successful early movers? And we look at how Europe's cooperative banks are teaming up in debt capital markets.

Throughout Europe, public sector banks have engaged in an attempt to redesign themselves. They want to lose the inert and conservative image of the past and turn themselves into progressive and profitable financial institutions that offer a clear strategy to existing and potential clients.

Those such as Germany's Landesbanks have been forced into action by the edicts of regulators. Others have had to look to new markets because there is little scope for expansion in their traditional ones. In some cases, management has finally grasped the opportunity to exploit inherent strengths that in the past have been allowed to slip through the net unnoticed.

Whether it's Erste Bank in Austria, Caisse Nationale des Caisses D'Epargne in France, Caja Madrid in Spain or LBBW in Germany, the theme is the same: they know they can't be all things to all people, but they can better leverage their core strengths and use the state-related nature of their business as a positive, rather than a negative.

In many cases, these banks are looking to provide a full range of services to their key clients through the retail and wholesale banking spectrum. Think of them, if you will, as local universal banks.

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