Six former NationsBank Corp. bond managers, who oversaw millions in pension plan assets in St. Louis, have formed their own company.

The managers, who all came to NationsBank through its January acquisition of Boatmen's Bancshares, have founded Rockwood Capital Management, St. Louis. The firm is likely to emerge as a stiff competitor to NationsBank's institutional money management business in the Midwest.

Since the money managers left NationsBank in February, several pension plans, including the Missouri Public School Retirement System, the St. Louis police retirement system, the carpenters' union, the Missouri state employees, and the Oklahoma state employees, have yanked their assets from the bank.

Their moves hint at the trouble the country's fifth-largest bank is having absorbing its latest acquisition.

Charlotte-based NationsBank bought Boatmens in large part for its institutional money management capabilities.

The departing managers include Frank J. Aten, formerly the second-in- command in the fixed-income department, now Rockwood's chief investment officer.

Following him were Paul D. Rapponotti, Daniel W. Lane, Scott P. Lieberton, David W. Brooks, and D. Andrew Holtgrieve. Anthony K. Brown, a marketing and client service representative at NationsBank also left to become Rockwood's marketing manager.

Mr. Aten, who is acting as the company spokesman, did not return telephone calls. Mr. Rapponotti was reached, but declined to comment.

"We're taking a low profile," he said. "We don't want to fight a war through the press."

The company also named M. Steve Yoakum, formerly executive director of the Missouri Public School Retirement System as Rockwood's managing director and chief operating officer.

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