Playing to the growing bank customer appetite for stock mutual funds, executives at Alliance Capital Management are barnstorming across the country to tout the firm's equity offerings.

In an unusual move for a fund company, top executives with New York- based Alliance have embarked on a month-long, 30-city tour to talk up its stock portfolios to bank and nonbank brokerages.

"Our challenge is to get people to stop thinking of Alliance as a bond house," said Richard A. Davies, the former First Chicago brokerage chief who is senior vice president in charge of Alliance's bank division.

While Alliance sold its funds through 200 banks last year, the firm is scrambling to regain credibility with banks, many of which were dismayed by the poor performance of several Alliance bond funds in 1994.

Alliance North American Government Income Trust Fund was one of the worst-performing bond funds in 1994, and drew lawsuits from investors who complained the name was misleading because the fund invested heavily in Argentina bonds.

"It was a major blowup for them," said Amy Arnott, editor of Morningstar Mutual Funds, which tracks the industry. "They had a pretty good year in 1995 with stock funds and are trying to capitalize on that," she said.

Alliance, which manages $47.2 billion in mutual funds for retail investors, made major ground in 1995 selling stock funds. Gross sales of stock funds were 57% of total volume last year, up from 30% in 1994.

Executives who have hit the road besides Mr. Davies include president John Carifa and Michael Laughlin, chairman of Alliance Fund Distributors.

The firm is also bringing along portfolio managers for Alliance Technology Fund, Premier Growth Fund, Alliance Growth and Income Fund, and the aggressive Quasar fund.

Some of the hourlong presentations are by invitation at hotels, but Mr. Davies is bringing portfolio managers along to meet with representatives at large banks such as First Chicago.

Financial institutions that have shown up for the presentations so far include: PNC Bank Corp., St. Paul Bancorp, Banc One Corp., and National City Corp.

Alliance is trying to gain some new bank clients, and shore up some shaky relationships with old clients.

St. Paul, for instance, had kicked the fund company off its preferred list in 1994, but put it back on in November.

Gerald Thomas, president of the Chicago thrift's brokerage, became disenchanted with Alliance's sales support after a key sales representative left the firm. But Alliance has hired back the representative.

Alliance's recent Chicago presentation impressed Mr. Thomas enough that he invited the firm to meet his staff of 30 brokers in February.

But he isn't sold on the company's stock funds yet. "Everybody was an equity house in 1995," he said. "It remains to be seen who makes it through next year."

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