Listen To The Story


Stacey Vanek-Smith: Lehman Brothers bit the dust. Merrill Lynch is now the property of Bank of America. That leaves Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley as the last of the big stand-alone investment houses. So, are the days of the independent broker-dealer numbered? Marketplace's Bob Moon reports.

Bob Moon: New York University business professor Roy Smith is a former partner at Goldman Sachs. He points out plenty of investment banks have failed or been acquired before, but others have taken their place.

Roy Smith: This is a very competitive business, so the turnover of the leading firms is very intense.

Gone are names once so iconic, even school kids could recite them.

Voice of child in commercial: A, B, C, D -- E.F. Hutton! When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.

Smith: A lot of big firms that were household names well-known in America just aren't here anymore.

He says some firms might take cover under the umbrella of traditional commercial banks, but he points out even Citigroup and others have faltered. And he argues that more nimble investment banks can still compete by adapting to give customers what they want.

Smith: Higher quality of earnings, more predictability of earnings, less risk, less volatility, maybe more dividends and less growth.

Smith sees the current turmoil on Wall Street as just another cycle of what he calls "constructive destruction."

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.