Not so long ago, bankers wanting to attend the annual convention of the mutual fund industry pratically had to sneak their way in.

Most piggybacked their way, in on the membership cards of companies that helped them market funds.

These days, however, the animosities between banks and mutual fund companies are fading fast. In fact, as the Investment Company Institute stages its annual bash this week in Washington, banks are in the limelight.

A sizable number of the 1,500 attendees are bankers, and the conference opened Wednesday with the trade group unveiling a study of banks' increasingly important role in selling and managing mutual funds.

Banks, according to the study, accounted for a whopping 30% of all mutual fund sales in the

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