Two of California's biggest banks have launched what are said to be unique alliances for selling loans.

First Interstate Bancorp is claiming to be the first U.S. bank to offer preapproved home equity loans to magazine subscribers. The offers were included with the October issue of Sunset Magazine, a home and gardening monthly with 1.5 million subscribers in the West.

And in another program described as the first of its kind, Wells Fargo & Co. has teamed with the National Association of Women Business Owners to market unsecured small business loans to women throughout the country. The San Francisco-based bank's goal is to extend at least $1 billion of the revolving credits within three years.

Both initiatives were in line with the banks' stated desire to use more data base-driven marketing.

Indeed, Wells is getting praise from stock analysts for becoming the first bank to market small-business loans nationally through direct mail and telephone. The bank now has about $4 billion in small-business credits outstanding.

Wells Fargo will use the same solicitation techniques in partnership with the Women Business Owners. Credits of $5,000 to $100,000 are expected to be made available to women business owners regardless of whether they belong to the group.

The alliance resulted from a personal relationship between Margaret Smith, president of the 10,000-member association, and Terri Dial, executive vice president of Wells' business banking group.

"This is something that evolved from our conversations and relationships" and not from competitive bidding, Ms. Dial said.

The market for loans to women business owners is described as growing and underserved. She said projections show that by the year 2000 some 40% of small businesses will be run by women. The association has argued that women find it much harder to get small-business loans than men do.

First Interstate's home equity loan offer was sent out to nearly a 10th of Sunset's subscribers. Officials said they worked with the magazine because its readers are in the same 13 states as the bank. Additionally, it was thought to make sense to market home equity loans to people who read home and gardening magazines. If the program is successful, it will be repeated, bank and Sunset officials said.

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