Banks sold more than $25 billion in nonproprietary mutual funds last year, nearly a quarter of which was in equity funds.

Those are the key findings of a study conducted for the Bank Securities Association by Strategic Insight, a New York consulting firm.

Strategic Insight drew its conclusions from a survey of 20 mutual fund companies, which reported $19.5 billion in sales through banks. The firm reached the $25 billion sales figure by extrapolation, on the assumption that the companies surveyed account for three-quarters of sales of nonbank funds through banks.

While there has been a great deal of fanfare surrounding banks introducing proprietary funds, the survey demonstrates that "outside fund sales are clearly very significant," said Avi Nachmany, a partner with Strategic Insight.

Sales of nonproprietary funds were up 28% in the year, and about 940 funds were sold through banks, the poll found.

Participants reported that bond funds accounted for 62% of their sales through banks, or roughly $12.1 billion. Taxable bond funds made up the bulk of these sales, approximately $7.4 billion, while tax-exempt bonds accounted for $4.7 billion.

They also reported that equity mutual funds accounted for 24% of their sales, or $4.7 billion. The figure is surprisingly large, given that bank customers are generally thought to favor low-risk investments.

"The proportion of equity business that is done in banks is not significantly lower than the industry," Mr. Nachmany said.

The survey also found that in the bank channel about two-thirds of mutual funds were sold with up-front sales loads and one-third carried back-end loads.

Fund companies increased the number of employees dedicated to bank sales last year.

"In 1993, there was a fourfold increase in the number of funds, with 40% of the top funds having 25 or more employees dedicated to bank sales," according to a statement from the association, which is based in Corte Madera, Calif.

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