Chase Manhattan Bank will sell $1 billion of mutual funds and annuities in branches this year, said Douglas C. Williams, a vice president who oversees the New, York bank's retail investment program.

"Our program truly came into its own this year," Mr. Williams said.

He sees customers purchasing about $850 million in mutual funds and $150 million of annuities in Chase branches, up from aggregate sales of around $750,000 in 1992.

An Exclusive Club

If it hits the $1 billion sales mark, Chase will reach a pinnacle few other banks have attained.

Only a handful of banks are selling $1 billion or more of investment products on a retail level, said Avi Nachmany, a partner at Strategic Insight, New York. "It represents systemwide, acceptance of the products."

Among the retail standouts are Citibank and Bank of America, which sell more than $1 billion annually in mutual funds alone, Mr. Nackmany said.

Third-Party Firm Used

Chase's three-year-old program uses about 160 representatives of GNA Corp., a Seattle-based, third-party marketing firm, to offer investment products in the bank's 350 branches. Almost 40% of mutual, fund sales are from Chase's own family of 32 Vista funds.

Chase positions Vista as "the fund family of choice," while offering a handful of outside funds, as well, Mr. Williams said. "We try to keep the lineup fairly simple, but broad."

Certainly Chase can thank the booming mutual fund market for some of the growth in its investment products division.

Customer Acceptance Gains

But bank officials feel the program's success vividly illustrates how consumers have come to see banks as acceptable, if not preferable, suppliers of mutual funds and annuities, alongside more traditional products.

"We're at a level where we're clearly established in the branch system," Mr. Williams said

Investment product salespeople share platform space with customer service representatives who offer certificate posit and checking accounts.

Although the differences between the two salesforces are clearly marked, Chase does see their rubbing elbows as symbolic.

Integration "is probably the most important component of our program," said John H. Groesbeck, vice president in charge of marketing for the investment-product program. "You have to be part of the branch team."

Mr. Groesbeck and other representatives of the investment-product program literally try to bring this message home by holding regular in-branch meetings with employees.

Other Incentives

Chase also offers tangible incentives -- payments of around $10 -- for referrals that result in appointments with GNA representatives.

One of the program's strongest attributes is the use of a single, salesforce to offer mutual funds, annuities and, in a somewhat unusual twist, life insurance, Mr. Williams said.

In fact, Chase has big plans for life insurance, including the bank's own products. Chase's first proprietary offering, a group term product launched in the spring, was underwritten by American General.

Chase sees this product as an alternative to the popular savings bank life insurance.

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