First Union Corp. plans to add 100 brokers to its 200-member staff as part of an ambitious effort to steal business from nonbank brokerages.
Dwight C. Moody, president of First Union Brokerage Services, is hoping to build a force over the next three years that can go toe-to-toe with those from the best regional and national houses. The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank will be recruiting brokers with Series 7 licenses, which entitles them to sell individual securities as well as mutual funds and annuities.
"We want people who can sell to Merrill Lynch customers and branch customers," Mr. Moody said.
But the banking company also wants to begin underwriting and distributing debt and equity issues like an investment banker. And if those powers are granted, these additional brokers would aid in the distribution effort, bank officials said.
W. Anthony Turner, the new senior vice president of First Union's brokerage unit, conceded that regulatory hurdles stand in the way of brokers being able to sell securities on the primary market.
"Even in the worse case, if these brokers are prohibited from selling these securities, we have a lot of bank customers that will need the services of these brokers," said Turner.
The staff-up is the latest drive by First Union to remain one of the industry's largest providers of investment products. The sales representatives offer a variety of investments, including the $7.2 billion dollar proprietary fund group made up of First Union and Evergreen funds.
At least one banking consultant - John Philip Sousa 4th, president of Investment Program Management, Westlake Village, Calif. - applauds First Union's desire to go after the business of nonbank brokerages.
But he warned the banking company not to overlook potential investors who come to the bank by way of the small business and commercial loan units.
"Too many banks overlook these groups while they go after retail deposit customers," Mr. Sousa said.
First Union often taps outside talent to assist its investment sales efforts. The latest example is Mr. Turner, hired this month from NationsBank Corp.'s global finance group.
As senior vice president and national sales manager for First Union Brokerage Services, Mr. Turner will oversee the hiring effort and also work with the 2,000 customer service representatives that First Union has licensed to sell mutual funds. About 800 of these sales representatives will also become licensed to offer annuities.
Mr. Turner filled a spot vacant since last September, when Lamar Polsten left to join Fidelity Investments.
The new executive is "an excellent addition to our management team as we position ourselves for further growth and success," Mr. Moody said.
Mr. Turner said he will be looking for brokers with large client lists that they can bring to the bank with them.
"We also need brokers that can pick up customers outside our branch network and have been successful at doing it," he said.