Alliance Capital Management is emphasizing service as it tries to make it into the top three fund companies selling through banks.

The New York company is adding wholesalers to its roster and stepping up the educational programs it runs for brokers.

"We have a long path to walk in banks," said Kevin Rowell, managing director of Alliance's financial institutions division.

Alliance is one of a dozen or so mutual fund companies jockeying for position behind such entrenched bank distributors as Franklin Templeton Distributors Inc., Massachusetts Financial Services, OppenheimerFunds Distributor Inc., and Putnam Mutual Funds. Putnam is the largest distributor of funds through banks, with $8.5 billion sold last year.

Alliance, which manages $321 billion of assets, expects to have $1.5 billion of sales through banks this year. That's up from $970 million last year.

The fund company is counting on relationships with such banking giants as BankAmerica Corp., Chase Manhattan Corp., Citigroup Inc., and First Union Corp. to reach that goal.

Alliance prizes the "preferred provider partnerships" it has with these institutions, Mr. Rowell said.

"These are major accounts for us," he said. "It's been hard work, but we've had good success this year."

But Mr. Rowell said there is still more work to be done in courting banking companies.

As part of its drive, Alliance doubled the number of wholesalers working with brokers to 12.

The wholesalers are responsible for giving brokers fresh ideas on how to sell investment products. "We want them to bring timely ideas to the brokers, not just offer a fund of the month," Mr. Rowell said.

Alliance also began offering banks the services of its "business development institute."

The institute is an educational service that puts experts in touch with bank brokers.

For example, Mr. Rowell said, a West Coast banking company wanted to add wrap products to its investment products roster but was not sure how to sell them.

Mr. Rowell said Alliance made its in-house wrap account developer available to the bank, which he declined to identify, and helped launch the new program.

The institute also offers seminars on topics such as obtaining referrals from current customers and putting on investment seminars. Alliance hopes to bring "really meaningful programs to banks," Mr. Rowell said. "They deserve something concrete, not just product pitches."

Alliance is taking the right steps in its courtship of banks, one analyst said.

The company offers a good product array, deep wholesaling coverage, and program consistency, said David Masters, managing director of Optima Group of Fairfield, Conn.

"Alliance has done a pretty good job," Mr. Masters said. "They're clearly in it, and in it to stay."

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