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CSFB's multiple personality disorder

Merrill Lynch is a "pragmatist-expediter."

Despite "ruthlessly rational and analytic decision making, this wonderfully well-oiled machine comes off the blocks fast, but does not necessarily know where it is going."

So says consultant Richard Brown, an adherent of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who studied personality types. He has been putting investment banks on the couch. "This is the archetypal people business, and the leading investment banks all clearly have personalities," he contends. Oxford grad Brown, 48, was a senior marketer for Guinness and spirits group Diageo for years before founding London-based consulting firm Cognosis in 1998.

For Brown and his 14-person staff, who have worked mostly with consumer companies, investment banking is a whole new field. He says that his firm is in "substantive discussions" with a number of U.S. and European investment banks eager to learn about their Jungian personalities and the strategic implications thereof.

Brown bases his insights into Merrill (which is not a client) and other firms on interviews with 28 executives who are employees or clients of, or service providers to, investment banks. His preliminary diagnoses:

Goldman Sachs: a "partner-harmonizer" or "close-knit clan" that "many people describe as a cult."

Citigroup: a "pragmatist-fixer, fast-paced and action-oriented" but "so fixated with the here and now that they can easily get blind-sided by the future."

Credit Suisse Group: a "split personality." The bank side is a "pragmatist-guardian" that is "very buttoned-down and accurate and concerned with the rules of its own world, like a Swiss clock," while the investment bank is a "pragmatist-fixer" built for speed.

To paraphrase a generation of patients, what's the point of all this analysis? Well, to take one example, Brown points out that "it is incredibly difficult pulling off a merger between two different personality types." Wall Street CEOs might just want to schedule a little couch time.