Bank customers in the Atlanta area will soon be able to shop for mutual funds at the supermarket.

Bank South Corp., which operates 48 banking outlets in Kroger and Piggly Wiggly stores, announced that it will add investments to its product mix by early next year.

Mutual funds will also be offered through the Atlanta-based banking company's 85 traditional branches, and through a telephone banking system that operates from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Bank South, which has $4.6 billion of assets, is making investment products available through its new brokerage unit, Bank South Securities Corp. The subsidiary was established last month, and will open for business early next year.

|People Have More Time'

Bank South's goal is to build upon a long-standing expertise in trust by making money management services available to the rest of the bank's customers, said Lee Sessions, head of consumer, investment management, and trust banking.

The supermarket sales should be a marketing plus, he added. "We're available to our customers on the weekends, and at night. We are there when people have more time to think about their investment decisions."

Saw Need for Variety

As part of its plan to step up its investment products business, Bank South will soon introduce a proprietary family of mutual funds. Mr. Sessions said that the first product will most likely be a money market fund.

The bank also is evaluating which nonproprietary products and services to offer customers. Banks marketing mutual funds typically assemble a list of "preferred" products, consisting of selected offerings from a handful of fund vendors.

Mr. Sessions said that Bank South is entering the mutual funds business because executives saw a need "to round out the scope of our product delivery to our customers."

The bank also wanted "to build upon our existing delivery system, one that we think is very attractive and convenient for consumers," he said.

Won't Be Called |Brokers'

Mr. Sessions and the other executives involved in the brokerage rollout are focusing on staffing, marketing, and training.

Mr. Sessions is sure about one thing: new investment products representatives won't be billed as "brokers." He said that label is too narrow, suggesting that the employees provide transaction services only.

"Our strategic thrust is to promote the fact that our delivery system provides integrated services."

|One Channel' Delivery

Indeed, he said, Bank South hopes to set itself apart from the competition by making brokerage products an integral part of its mainstream banking business. To that end, brokerage employees will be trained to understand deposits and loans, and branch employees will be tutored in mutual funds.

"Our vision is to make sure that all of our products and services are delivered through one channel," said Mr. Sessions.

"We want to make sure that our system is easy and convenient and that consumers realize they can do brokerage transactions as well as their other business in a central way and not have to go to a special office."

Ms. Sullivan is a freelance writer based in New York.

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