What was promoted as a grill turned out to be a tea party.

Susan Antilla, a New York Times reporter who recently skewered banks' bungled attempts at selling mutual funds, was appearing side by side at a panel with some of her targets: marketers from Chase Manhattan Corp., Chemical Banking Corp., and Dime Savings Bank.

In her article, Mr. Antilla reported on the disastrous results of her shopping trip for investment product advice at 14 different bank branches in Manhattan.

She found branch employees almost universally uninformed about mutual funds and other products that were being heavily advertised by their parents. Also, few so-called investment specialists were available for consultation.

"No one wanted my money," Ms. Antilla told a roomful of bankers at the Bank Marketing Association of New York meeting last week.

Though some bankers angrily confronted her before the session -- "You can't expect every teller to know these products," whined one banker -- her opinions wen unchallenged during the formal session.

The bankers on the panel generally supported her view that banks do a poor job of selling investment services, despite their hyped-up advertising budgets. They blamed poor training and inexperience as the chief culprits.

"We know we have a lot of work to do," said Leonard Malkin, head of investment services at Chemical.

Doug Williams a vice president for insurance products at Chase, defended branch employees. They are "trained superficially," he agreed, but added: "They're not trained to sell you investment services, but to tell you who in the branch can help you."

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