In an attempt at addition by subtraction, Wisconsin-based bank Marshall & Ilsley (NYSE:MI) will soon spin off its data-service segment, Metavante, to shareholders. Time will tell whether each segment can perform better alone, but I like their chances.

I recently highlighted that M&I's ownership in Metavante offered downside protection to the cyclical credit cycle most banks endure. Metavante offers technology support to financial services firms, and it's recently pursued more lucrative payment-transaction business. In theory, this exposure offers a viable offset to potential industry woes, such as an inverted yield curve, subprime mortgage concerns, or slowing deposit growth -- all of which are worrying investors right now.

However, M&I didn't appear to be receiving proper credit for Metavante, so it's decided to set its subsidiary free. This makes sense: Metavante isn't considered an industry leader, but it could trade at higher P/E multiples than regional banks have recently seen. M&I is trading at about 14 times forward earnings, while peers such as National City (NYSE:NCC) and Comerica (NYSE:CMA) are closer to 13 times.

Financial-transaction and data-service peers such as Jack Henry & Associates (NASDAQ:JKHY) trade for more than 20 times forward earnings, and payment processor leader First Data (NYSE:FDC) will be bought out at about 28 times, as announced April 2. As it happens, M&I announced its Metavante spinoff plans the next day, after which the subsidiary could become a potential acquisition target of its own.

M&I could also be an easier acquisition target once Metavante is sent packing. It currently qualifies as a top 20 domestic bank, but it's still much smaller than US Bancorp (NYSE:USB) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), which maintain headquarters one state away from Wisconsin.

Shares of M&I jumped more than 10% after announcing the intended spinoff, but recently gave up some gains after yesterday's announcement of a decent but unspectacular first quarter. I'll wait to see what Metavante looks like as an independent firm; M&I could be worth a look as well, once it returns to traditional banking and investment-management businesses.

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US Bancorp and JPMorgan are Income Investor recommendations. First Data is an Inside Value pick: try it free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann is long shares of First Data but has no financial interest in any company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.