First Union Corp. is hiring more brokers and investment sales assistants in a bid to beef up the sales force in its recently acquired Northeast bank branches.

But according to want ads the banking company placed in several New York-area newspapers last week, slackers and tenderfeet need not apply.

The North Carolina company is requiring prospective brokers to have three to five years of experience selling investments. The recruits should also be able to prove that they can generate above-average gross commissions of at least $250,000 in a 12-month period, the company says.

"First Union is clearly making an attempt to be competitive in this market, and they know if they are going to make any hay in this business they have to attract top talent," said David Master, a consultant for Optima Group, Fairfield, Conn.

Indeed, the average bank broker produced $177,000 in gross commissions in 1995, according to a study done by Princeton, N.J.-based Kenneth Kehrer & Associates and DAK Associates of Conshohocken, Pa.

First Union has 100 full-service personal investment counselors and 1,000 platform employees with Series 6 licenses in branches of the former First Fidelity Bancorp., which First Union acquired earlier this year.

Anthony Saponaro, First Union's investment sales director in the Northeast, was not available for an interview. But a company spokesman said First Union plans to hire 10 to 20 more brokers by August.

He added that the requirements were not out of line with what First Union requires of new brokers in its other bank markets. "This is continuing what we've done already in the Southeast."

Some observers disagree, saying First Union needs to attract brokers that can generate a lot of sales in order to compete effectively in the Northeast, where the bank must overcome stiffer competition from nonbank brokerages to tap more wealthy customers.

"They are obviously looking for heavy producers - brokers that have good repeat sales with customers," said Kenneth Kehrer, president of Kenneth Kehrer & Associates.

Brokers hired specifically for First Union's private bank are required to have experience selling bonds and stock, and a proven track record of generating at least $300,000 in gross commissions per year, according to the company's advertisements.

First Union does not mention how much the new brokers would be compensated, but Mr. Kehrer said the banking company is enticing brokers by promising sales support. The First Union ad is also recruiting eight to 10 sales assistants to back up full-time brokers.

"That kind of support is attractive to brokers, because it frees them of a lot of paperwork and allows them to concentrate on selling," he said.

The First Union advertisements appeared in the Sunday editions of The Philadelphia Inquirer and The New York Times, as well as several New Jersey newspapers, including The Record of Bergen County, the Asbury Park Press, and The Star-Ledger of Newark.

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