Banks are constantly finding ways to sharpen their competitive edge and attract and retain investment customers.

On this page, and scattered around this issue, are some of the bright ideas that caught our attention over the past 12 months: Idea = Keep an Eye on demographics

Chase Manhattan Corp. ($367 billion of assets at midyear, New York) set up an investment center in midtown Manhattan aimed at its growing cadre of Chinese customers. In the first two weeks, 25 new investors signed up.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

Taking aim at discount broker-dealers, Citicorp ($331 billion assets, New York) slashed its fees for electronic and live securities trading.

Put it in print

BankAmerica Corp. ($264 billion assets, San Francisco) targeted African- Americans with Clout, a finance magazine from McMurry Publishing. The first issue featured a cover story on how Magic Johnson handles his money and business.

Pick a niche

What company was the nation's fastest growing institutional money manager last year? Bankers Trust New York Corp. ($172 billion assets) was, according to chairman Frank Newman, thanks to its focus on subadvising other companies' mutual funds and on index funds.

Make the most of your purchases

After buying Quick & Reilly, the nation's third largest discount brokerage, Fleet Financial Group ($101 billion assets, Boston) folded its brokerage operation into the new subsidiary.

Think "retirement"

Banc One Corp. ($124 billion assets, Columbus, Ohio) formed an alliance with the Invesco Retirement Plan Services to offer midsize businesses a 401(k) plan option.

Forge a new identity

SouthTrust Corp. ($35 billion assets, Birmingham, Ala.) scrapped the Vulcan Funds moniker in favor of the SouthTrust Funds, capitalizing on its name recognition across seven states. Several other banks made similar moves during the year.

Call on your vendors

Unionbancal Corp. ($31 billion assets, San Francisco) turned to its mutual fund partners for help in organizing investor seminars after the stock market took a sharp dip in late summer. Fidelity Investors came through with a program for October, and Massachusetts Financial Services and OppenheimerFunds were expected at press time to offer programs by November.

Extend yourself

CCB Financial Corp. ($7 billion assets, Durham, N.C.) managed brokerage operations for three smaller North Carolina banks, building on a program it developed with Invest Financial Corp., Tampa, Fla.

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