When it comes to planning for retirement, Americans trust the advice they get from banks much more than the wisdom passed on by mutual fund companies, according to a study by a New York think tank.

The Public Agenda Forum, in a survey of 1,100 people, found that 65% expressed confidence in retirement savings advice from financial advisers at banks.

But in response to another question, 56% of respondents expressed a lack of confidence in advice from mutual fund companies' sales representatives.

The group, headed by pollster Daniel Yankelovich and former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, focuses on helping citizens grasp public policy issues and helping leaders understand the public's views.

It conducted the survey, titled "Promises to Keep: How Leaders and the Public Respond to Savings and Investment," with funding from Fidelity Investments, the nation's largest mutual fund company.

The findings on public confidence bode well for banks, many of which view the retirement savings of the baby boomers as a promising source of investment funds.

But some mutual fund executives took exception to the survey results. Focus groups and research conducted by Kemper Financial Services last year suggested that "most retirees would have no problems using brokers," said Harvey Glassman, a senior vice president of the Chicago company.

The findings come as mutual fund companies and banks are stepping up efforts to attract retirement assets. In the past year, for instance, several major mutual fund companies have emphasized retirement planning in their marketing campaigns. Banks are devising similar strategies, with a particular emphasis on the 401(k) plan market.

"I don't think banks have any choice" but to offer retirement plans, said Theodore A. Miller Jr., a principal at the Global Advisors money management unit of State Street Boston Corp.

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