As large segments of the world's banking system flirt with insolvency and require unprecedented bailouts, treasury staffs are operating on high alert and maneuvering delicately to test relationships on which they depend. Those relationships may be of long standing, but these days they're anything but familiar.

"This turmoil is worse than I ever thought it would get," says Greg Weigard, assistant treasurer at $10 billion Air Products & Chemicals Inc. in Allentown, Pa., and a 25-year treasury veteran. "I think bankers are trying to figure out what banks will look like going forward, what lines of business they will keep or sell, who will own them."

Geopolitics and macroeconomics have collided with routine treasury operations. The bailouts worry Rick Moss, treasurer of $4.5 billion Hanesbrands Inc. in Winston-Salem, N.C. "You have to wonder how high levels of government ownership will impact how banks function; they're subject to enormous oversight–called to appear before Congress, criticized for golf tournaments and jet purchases.

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