Bank's equity fund assets account for only 15% of assets under management at the 103 banks that manage mutual funds.

By this key measure, banks lag far behind the mutual fund industry as a whole, which has 35% of assets in equity funds, according to the Investment Company Institute.

"I don't see them catching up anytime soon," said Avi Nachmany, a partner in Strategic Insight. a New York-based consulting firm.

Institutions a Big Factor

Banks have $29.4 billion in equity funds according to a ranking compiled by Lipper Analytic Services Inc. for the American Banker.

A table of results was published in last Wednesday's edition. The accompanying chart lists the 10 banks with the most equity-fund assets under management.

Mr. Nachmany said most of the equity growth at banks has come from institutional clients and from trust conversions.

And he doesn't expect that to change. Retail customers aren't shaping up to be the driving force behind equity sales at banks, he said.

Source of Growth

Instead, growth will continue to be tied to annual growth in trust and institutional business.

NationsBank Corp., Charlotte, N.C., was first in equity assets of $1.9 billion as of June 30. That was 17.9% of the total assets of $10.5 billion.

SunTrust Banks Inc. of Atlanta came in second with $1.8 billion in equity assets, an impressive 53% of the $3.7 billion in fund assets for which SunTrust is investment adviser.

Consumers Diversify Assets

Third place went to First of America Corp., Kalamazoo, Mich. Its equity assets of $1.4 billion accounted for 36% of total fund assets, close to the mutual fund industry average.

While much of First of America's equity assets came from trust conversions and institutional clients, about 53% of current retail sales are in equity funds, said William Shauman, senior vice president in charge of retail product development.

"It's really the whole sales process and the diversification of customer assets," he said.

Absent from the list of the top 10 banks in equity funds is Chase Manhattan Corp., whose Vista Growth and Income Fund is arguably the most successful bank-run equity fund around.

The fund had $335 million in assets. That's 39% of Chase's total equity-fund assets of $867 million.

Outstanding performance has helped the Vista fund to grow dramatically in recent years, but it started out with very little in institutional money and thus has a tougher climb ahead of it, Mr. Nachmany said.

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