Trust banking's oldest trade group wants to push its industry past the humdrum, pompous image that has contributed to its loss of market share to nonbank money managers.

The American Bankers Association's 100-year-old trust and investment management committee wants to get the message out that banks provide competitive investment returns. It is even prodding its members to launch advertising campaigns to let investors know trust bankers are progressive and savvy.

"Banks are perceived as stodgy, when the reality is that is not true," said Daniel W. Drake, chairman of the ABA's trust and investment management committee.

Mr. Drake, a J.P. Morgan & Co. managing director in charge of global fiduciary services, said the committee also is addressing ways to make sophisticated trust technology available to all banks. And, it wants to help its members "coexist" with adversarial trust beneficiary groups, such as Heirs Inc.

At the same time, the committee is lobbying for legislation that would allow for tax-free conversions of common trust funds into mutual funds and would reduce the fiduciary liabilities faced when estates contain properties with environmental problems, Mr. Drake said.

Still, one of the most pressing issues facing the committee - whose chairmanship will be turned over in October to Jayne Lipe, executive vice president of Overton Bank and Trust in Fort Worth - is improving the trust industry's image.

It must do that, however, without negating its image altogether, warned Michael F. Casey, a vice president for private banking at Norwest Corp., Minneapolis. Because investors view banks as stodgy and conservative, they also trust them more than they do brokerages and nonbanks, he said.

"You and I were born to believe you can trust a banker, but they only trust us up to about $500,000," Mr. Casey said. To get past that plateau, private bankers "have got to demonstrate that we can do investment management."

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