What one Dallas community bank lacks in size it makes up for in gumption,

Since launching its own investment products sales pro, gram two years ago, $166 million-asset Equitable Bank has been holding its own against much larger banks and brokerage firms.

And while many other banks around the country report that mutual fund sales are declining, Equitable says its investments business is holding steady.

Since the beginning of the year, the bank has sold $1.1 million worth of investments, split about evenly between mutual funds and annuities, said Doyle Lee, Equitable Bank's president and chief operating officer. Response to Deposit Outflows

The bank launched its investment product sales program in 1992 in a bid to stem deposit outflows.

Officials saw deposits streaming out the bank lobby and landing at local brokerage firms such as PaineWebber and Merrill Lynch, Mr. Lee said.

"It's not just the banks we're competing against anymore," he said. It's anyone who has these products to offer."

Mr. Lee said Equitable Bank was one of the first community banks in Dallas to venture into investment product sales. That head start has given the bank a competitive edge, he said.

To sell mutual funds and annuities to its customers, Equitable enlisted the help of NAP-Aragon Inc., an Austin-based investment marketer endorsed by the Texas Bankers Association.

NAP-Aragon placed two brokers in the bank's lobby, both with Series 7 licenses from the National Association of Securities Dealers. The credential permits them to sell individual stocks and bonds as well as mutual funds.

Equitable launched a marketing campaign to draw in existing customers as well as small-business owners and professionals in the suburban Dallas area. The campaign included print and radio ads aimed at the affluent neighborhoods surrounding its six branches in Dallas and nearby Arlington.

Among the bank's best sellers have been funds from managed by Franklin Resources, Fidelity Investments, Capital Resources and Management, and AIM Management.

Rocky stock and bond markets have made noninsured investments a tough sell, however.

But while the bank's mutual fund sales are holding steady, its deposit business is booming. "We've seen a $2 million increase in our CD business just over the last four months," said Mr. Lee.

He said rising interest rates and volatile stock and bond markets have made insured certificates of deposit attractive to nervous investors.

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