Banc One Corp. is talking to major Wall Street firms about establishing a joint brokerage service like the recently announced NationsBank-Dean Witter alliance.
Potential Wall Street partners for the Ohio-based superregional include Merrill Lynch & Co.; Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co.; PaineWebber Inc; and even Dean Witter Reynolds Inc.
"We are talking to all the big brokerage houses," said John Russell, a Banc One spokesman. The brokerage firms declined to comment.
Last month, NationsBank Corp. announced a plan under which sales personnel for Dean Witter will sell securities through the bank's branches. (See analysis in column 1).
Many More Deals Expected
Several bankers attending a mutual fund conference in San Francisco said they expected deals like the NationsBank project to mushroom.
The NationsBank deal "has sparked a lot of interest," said L. Rainey Gray, senior vice president of Boatmen's National Bank in St. Louis.
A banker from a large regional company in the Northeast said big securities firms have been aggressively wooing potential bank partners in the wake of the NationsBank announcement.
Special Link to Merrill
Mr. Russell declined to say when Banc One would decide which brokerage house or houses it will go into business with. Nor would he say which broker has an inside track.
Through underwriting and cash management activities, Banc One has dealings with most major Wall Street companies. But the bank has a particularly close relationship with Merrill Lynch because the bank handled the back-office processing for Merrill's successful Cash Management Account.
Banc One's proposed service, which would be offered at most branches, is part of a plan to open 858 special investment centers dedicated to selling securities, insurance, and mutual funds in branches over the next two years.
"I don't know anyone planning to do this on the scale Banc One is talking about," said Dennis Shea, an analyst with Morgan Stanley & Co.
Banc One has already tried out its planned investment service, using its own salespeople, in branches in Dayton, Ohio, and Dallas in the past 12 months.
"We've been trying to go beyond traditional bank product offerings," said Paul F. Walsh, chairman of Banc One Diversified Services Corp., which oversees nontraditional products.
Banc One has already had some success in stimulating its brokerage business. Two years ago, commissions were nonexistent. This year, commissions will reach $39 million, said Mr. Walsh.
Big Growth Since 1990
It has 125 people licensed to sell securities, mutual funds, and insurance. Asset management has grown into a $3.2 billion business, compared with $5 million in 1990.
The brokerage services will bring Banc One into competition with national as well as regional brokers. Mr. Walsh said his brokerage service would be aimed at customers who do not already have brokerage accounts and whose incomes puts them just under the affluent level.
These customers in Dallas and Dayton were the biggest buyers of mutual funds and brokerage services.
Mr. Walsh told bank analysts at a meeting in Boston last week that he expects a personal investment center to increase a branch's annual pretax profits by between $100,000 and $150,000.
Bank Activities Restricted
An advantage in forging an alliance with a brokerage house is that, by law, banking companies are restricted in the types of securities they can offer.
But Henry Shilling, an analyst at Moody's Investors Service Inc., said the jury was out on how successful such relationships will be.
"Banks are frustrated over their inability to sell aggressively because they don't possess a sales force," he said in San Francisco. "But I don't know whether these alliances are a long-term solution for the banks. In part, they've got problems because they're newcomers to the game."