What's Really Driving Banks' Profits

Their venture-capital units are pulling in record gains, but competition is getting stiff are

The high-tech, biotech, and Internet market boom has launched a golden era for bank venture-capital units. They're pulling in a good chunk of their parent's profits, often while relying on their traditionally tiny staff. Wells Fargo & Co., for example, got 16% of its fourth-quarter 1999 net income, or $721 million, from deals vetted by just 14 partners in its venture-capital unit. The bank has 92,000 employees overall. First Union Corp., with a total payroll of 70,000, garnered 13% of its fourth-quarter net income, or $228 million, from deals captured by the 16 people in its unit.

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