Centura Securities has stubbornly held its own in North Carolina's crowded field of bank-run brokerages.
The Charlotte-based brokerage unit of Centura Banks Inc., Rocky Mount, N.C., has been doing brisk sales of investment products, despite competition from the larger brokerages of First Union Corp. and NationsBank Corp.
Launched a little more than a year ago, the unit now generates 10% of the $4.9 billion-asset banking company's noninterest fee income, bank officials said. Centura's success stands in contrast to many small-bank investment sales programs that have struggled in recent years.
Edward R. Hipp, the unit's president, said his strategy is simple: "I run our operation like any other brokerage firm. Being owned by a bank is secondary in my thinking."
Mr. Hipp, a former broker with Legg Mason Inc., became president of the brokerage last May. Under his stewardship, Centura's brokers have received a steady stream of training and tips on how to garner more clients.
Centura's sales reps target existing bank customers and those of brokerage firms such as Merrill Lynch and Interstate Johnston Lane, a regional brokerage firm based in North Carolina.
The Centura unit now has 27 full-time brokers, plus 60 platform representatives strictly devoted to selling investment products. The investment reps work out of Centura's 151 branches in northern North Carolina.
During the first half of the year, the brokerage brought in more than $1.3 million in revenue for the banking company - close to 20% more than the same period last year.
"What we're seeing right now is a maturing of our sales force," Mr. Hipp said. "Some of our people have been with us a year or more now, and they are just hitting their stride."
Most bank brokerage customers were traditionally savers who found it easier to transfer their money into investments with fixed rates or maturities, Mr. Hipp said.
"It's been hard trying to get people away from package products but they're beginning to dip toward stocks and individual securities now," he said.
Right now, variable annuities account for 40% of all investment sales at Centura. Mutual funds represent 30% of total sales, fixed-annuities 15%, and the rest are made up of individual stocks and bond sales, Mr. Hipp said.
The brokers sell the banking company's proprietary Centura Funds, which make up about 40% of all growth fund sales. AIM Capital Management's mutual funds are the biggest sellers overall.