Investment sales representatives at banking companies saw their compensation jump 20% last year, but a wide gap remained between their pay and that of nonbank brokers.

Bank sales reps took home $76,268 on average last year-53% of the $142,958 earned by their counterparts at wirehouses and regional brokerage firms, according to a study by Kenneth Kehrer Associates, Princeton, N.J.

The pay gap was only slightly narrower than in 1995, when bank sales reps got $63,490, or 51% of the $123,839 earned by nonbank brokers.

At the same time, the study found that bank sales reps produced less volume on average than their counterparts at wirehouses and regional brokerages.

Some observers said the findings suggest that brokers at banks face less pressure to sell than do their rivals at nonbank brokerages, and are willing to accept less money in return.

"There's a big difference in psychology between the channels," said Paul Werlin, president of Human Capital Resources, an executive recruiting and consulting firm in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Bank sales reps, he noted, may not have to beat the bushes for clients because there is a steady stream of referrals from elsewhere in the bank. Many bank reps prefer this environment, and are satisfied with the trade- off of not getting top dollar.

Kehrer Associates surveyed the pay practices of 54 banks, thrifts, and credit unions that account for one-third of investment sales by financial institutions.

The consulting firm, which conducted the study for Alliance Capital Management, then compared the findings with data supplied by the Securities Industry Association on sales reps at wirehouses and regional brokerage firms.

Kenneth Kehrer, the firm's principal, said banks "don't appear to be competing for reps on a price basis. The question is, who would take that deal?"

Annual gross commissions generated by bank brokers were $212,937 last year, about 60% of the average commissions reaped by nonbank brokers- $358,789. The gap varies according to the comparative size of the brokers, but is constant and significant for all size categories.

Mr. Kehrer said the disparity may be partly explained by the fact that banks, unlike their competitors, have separate trust departments that sell investments to wealthy customers.

Brokers in nonbank firms earn higher payouts than bank brokers do-that is, they keep a larger share of the commissions they bring in. Last year, bank brokers got 34% of the cut on average and nonbank brokers got 39%.

Joel Calvo, president of PNC Brokerage Corp., Pittsburgh, said it's often impossible for bank reps to match the sales numbers of their nonbank counterparts because banks don't offer as many individual products and services.

Many bank broker dealers offer only high-profit packaged products-mutual funds and annuities. Other broker-dealers have full service capabilities such as trading securities.

"The investment professional with full service capability should always outperform a limited-product-set professional over time because they will have investment solutions for all market environments," said Mr. Calvo. "So they'll always be generating revenue no matter what the situation."

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