The past few years have been a watershed for financial services. And just beneath the shocking headlines and news that derailed the economy, retail bank programs-not always the most dynamic part of the industry-have come to their own fork in the road. While bank presidents endured the harsh spotlight and drew the ire of regulators and the press, advisory programs were just off stage encountering changing attitudes and consumer fears (underscored by the Occupy Wall Street movement). There also have been new regulations that have changed the business. "I think we have had a seismic shift in the industry," says John Rhett, chairman of SunTrust Investment Services.

Opinions run the gamut on what will happen next. Some industry insiders say that the bank investment channel can count on a fairly easy ride from here on out. Others have the sense that the whole bank advisory model is just a few exits from extinction.

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