Much has happened to America's depository institutions in the more than two decades since Mayer wrote The Bankers, and his elegant update provides an informed guide to the convulsive change that has brought a remote, buttoned-down profession into the rowdy, high-tech world of financial services. Before assessing the past, present, and future of banking, the author assesses the nature of money, a demanding task that nonetheless permits him to examine the role commercial banks play in the way debts were, are, and could be paid. Moving on to ATMs, so-called smart cards, and the Internet's boundless potential, he documents why even multinational banks have good reason to fear problem-solving enterprises like Microsoft that have been poaching on their hitherto protected precincts. Mayer next evaluates the decline of bank lending, a drop that occurred despite mergers which have created regional and national powerhouses. He also offers an astute appreciation of the concurrent trend to gamble in futures trading, a high-stakes zero-sum game in which risky derivative instruments are trumps. Having reviewed the sudden death of the UK's venerable Barings Bank (to date, the highest profile casualty of casino capitalism), the author casts a cold eye on the S&L disaster in America. From this sore subject, he segues gracefully into a detailed appraisal of the many agencies that regulate the domestic banking industry in one way or another. In a concluding chapter, Mayer ventures provocative opinions on the successful efforts of the Federal Reserve System (which has a vested interest in sorting checks) to stymie private-sector rivals eager to establish a utility-like clearinghouse system that would offer universal access (at reasonable rates) to individuals and entities needing to transfer money in or out of the country. Engrossing and perceptive perspectives on developments that could signal the twilight of traditional over-the-counter banking.