L. Rainey Gray, who helped Boatmen's Bancshares become a leader in retail investment sales, has jumped to First American Corp., a relative newcomer to the field.

Mr. Gray started work Monday as president of Ameristar Capital Markets. the brokerage subsidiary of the $7.2-billion-asset banking company, based in Nashville.

He succeeds John Logan, who will focus exclusively on managing First American's own investments.

Mr. Gray spent seven years- at St. Louis-based Boatmen's, and was president of Boatmen's Investment Services, the $26.7 billion-asset company's brokerage unit.

He was in the midst of relocating last week, and could not be reached for comment.

But a spokesman for Boatmen's indicated that Mr. Gray's decision to join a smaller company may have been motivated in part by a desire to return to his home state.

"The rascal went back to Tennessee," the spokesman said.

Robert A. McCabe, a vice chairman of First American who oversees the brokerage unit, said Mr. Gray will have a broad mandate.

"We're making a major commitment to the securities business, and we were looking for someone with sufficient knowledge and stature to lead the program," Mr. McCabe said.

His duties will include management .of retail investment sales, as well as institutional sales, securities operations and trading, and a fledgling investment sales program through correspondent banks, Mr; McCabe said.

In the past year, First American has stepped up its emphasis on investment products. It recently introduced the ValueStar Funds, a private-label mutual fund family.

And it is expanding its retail sales force. The company, which now has 17 full-fledged stockbrokers, plans to boost the number to 30 by yearend. First American also has 59 platform employees licensed to sell a limited range of investment products.

At Boatmen's, Mr. Gray oversaw 70 sales representatives who offered a broad mix of investment products, including the banking company's proprietary Pilot funds.

The funds had $3.4 billion of assets on June 30, according to Lipper Analytical Services. Summit, N.J.

In 1993, Mr. Gray's last full year overseeing Boatmen's retail effort. his investment salespeople averaged $425,000 each in gross commissions.

That is well above the industry average of $350,000 per representative, according to industry experts.

In joining a fledgling operation, Mr. Gray is likely to experience some cultural differences.

"He may not have the same type of resources at his disposal," said Glen Casey, a consultant with Cerulli Associates, Boston.

But, Mr. Casey added, "He'll probably have a chance to be much more entrepreneurial"

Matt Dillane has replaced Mr. Gray as president of Boatmen's Investment Services. He has been with the company since 1983, most recently as manager of institutional sales for investment banking.

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