Alliance Capital Management has hired a Putnam Investments executive to head up its distribution of mutual funds through banks.

Kevin Rowell, who most recently led an effort to develop Putnam's sales through European banks and financial planners, will start with Alliance in August as a senior vice president and managing director for bank sales.

Mr. Rowell will be Alliance's first executive dedicated to bank distribution since the late 1980s, and he will lead an effort to reinvigorate sales through that channel, said company spokesman Duff Ferguson.

A veteran of more than 10 years with Putnam, Mr. Rowell helped the Boston fund company gain an early foothold in the bank distribution channel-a market it now dominates.

New York-based Alliance has not regained the presence it had in the bank channel before the 1994 bond market slump hurt some of its most popular funds.

Among the handful of top distributors through banks in the early 1990s, Alliance, which manages $98.2 billion of mutual fund assets, no longer ranks in the top 10.

But the company plans to double its bank market share, to 4%, by 2000.

Mr. Rowell faces an uphill climb, said Kenneth Kehrer, a consultant in Princeton, N.J.

"It's a crowded marketplace, and he's used to being with a firm that is clearly No. 1," he said. "It's a different game stepping into a company that's trying to get into banks."

Mr. Rowell was not available to comment Thursday, but Mr. Ferguson said his hiring indicates Alliance, which sells mainly through big nonbank brokerages, is serious about grabbing share in the bank sales market.

"Banks are now emerging as a significant force in mutual fund distribution, and we want to be part of that," the spokesman said.

The company's decision late last year to create a dedicated bank wholesaler corps should help that effort, he added.

Before his European assignment, Mr. Rowell was in charge of Putnam's bank sales in the western United States.

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