Massachusetts Financial Services is beefing up its efforts to sell mutual funds through the bank channel.

The Boston fund company has added four dedicated bank wholesalers since the fourth quarter and plans to add two more as soon as possible, said Lisa Jones, director of Massachusetts Financial's financial institutions division.

But finding the right people is a challenge, said Ms. Jones. "It's a real tight market."

Still, with its cadre of bank specialists now up to 15, Massachusetts Financial should see an increase in sales this year, Ms. Jones said.

Massachusetts Financial anticipates sales of $3 billion of mutual funds through bank broker-dealers in 1998, she said, up from $1.8 billion last year.

In addition to its traditional sales through bank brokerages, the company is making headway in a new business, selling through bank trust departments, Ms. Jones said.

It should have sales of $150 million through bank trust departments this year, she said, having entered 45 sales agreements this year with bank trust departments, including those at First Union Corp., Norwest Corp., and Centura Banks Inc.

The new wholesalers on the bank brokerage side were assigned to the central Midwest, the Southeast, the Northwest, and Southern California.

The company is trying to fill another position for Southern California and one for a territory that has not yet been named.

Massachusetts Financial has bolstered its sales through bank brokerages by entering three new relationships this year, with Wells Fargo & Co., BankAmerica Corp., and Fleet Financial Group, Ms. Jones said.

Along with the new bank relationships, Ms. Jones attributes the sales improvement to the performance of her company's funds.

Its most popular sellers through banks are the Massachusetts Investors Trust Fund, the Growth Stock Fund, the Research Fund, and the Emerging Growth Fund.

Jeff McConnell, an analyst at Morningstar, the fund rating company, said he had noticed certain Massachusetts Financial funds increasing assets lately.

"I think a lot of it is stand-out long-term performance," he said.

The trust sales initiative, started two years ago, has two wholesalers so far and should have five by October, Ms. Jones said.

The program is built around the concept of "heritage planning."

It is aimed at baby boomers who, in making financial plans, find themselves caught between saving for their children's education and their parents' old age.

Under its program, Massachusetts Financial offers investment products along with a complete marketing program aimed at this "sandwich generation."

It includes an array of financial planning information and guidance, including brochures, CD ROMs, and a service to refer clients to experts on everything from child care to wills to house hunting.

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