Peter R. Bauer, the new head of Compass Bancshares' brokerage unit, takes an aggressive approach to fishing.

"If it lives in the water and loves to bite things, I will chase it," the 55-year-old said.

It's a style that carries over to his job. "My attitude is: If you want something, you should go after it. Don't sit and wait, because it probably won't come to you," said Mr. Bauer, who also likes to hunt birds.

Mr. Bauer joined the $17.8 billion-asset banking company in April from the old BankAmerica Corp., where he was senior vice president and national director of insurance services. He succeeded Randy Reynolds, who had resigned.

From day one, Mr. Bauer has had a weighty agenda, including beefing up the Birmingham, Ala.-based bank's full-service and discount operations, as well as its insurance unit.

"It's been a good revenue growth area for the bank, and I think the initiatives they have under way" will continue to bring results, said John Balkind, an analyst at Fox-Pitt, Kelton in New York.

Mr. Balkind said the bank's first-quarter retail investment sales were $5.2 million, up more than 20% from a year earlier. "I would expect that it will continue to be a solid double-digit growth area for them," he said.

One of Mr. Bauer's first priorities was re-energizing the bank's platform program, in which bankers do double duty as brokers. Other banks, including Bank One Corp. of Chicago, have taken similar steps in recent months.

Compass had a platform program several years ago, but shifted focus to concentrate more aggressively on its dedicated sales force. Now it is switching directions again, with plans to license more than 300 platform bankers to sell fixed annuities. By the third quarter they will also be selling certain mutual funds, Mr. Bauer said.

A platform program allows the brokerage to deliver products more economically, Mr. Bauer said. "We already have those people there. We're not going out and building a new sales force," he said.

Compass also seeks to increase its dedicated sales force to 105 from 96, as well as build up its discount arm. There are seven brokers on the discount desk, and Compass plans to hire a few more, Mr. Bauer said.

There are also plans to advertise the bank's on-line brokerage, which has not been marketed much, but has been "growing in leaps and bounds," Mr. Bauer said. "In the 90 days I've been here, I haven't gotten to that piece yet."

Mr. Bauer said the industry's shift to Internet-based transactions means that brokers need to be more focused on financial planning, instead of merely executing trades.

"The future doesn't look very good for that," he said.

Mr. Bauer said he is also looking to build the bank's life and health business by focusing on a full-service rather than transactional model.

Compass also is searching for a large property/casualty agency to buy. He said the bank has had some discussions, but declined to name potential acquisition targets.

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