Bank consolidation is in full swing, but it hasn't slowed growth in the ranks of financial institutions that offer investment products.

From 1992 to 1996, 951 banks got in on the act, boosting the total to 3,957 banks, thrifts, and credit unions, according to American Brokerage Consultants, St. Petersburg, Fla.

"Banks of all sizes are moving into this arena," said William Martina, senior vice president and national accounts manager at Marketing One, a Portland, Ore., company that helps banks enter the brokerage business. "Mutual funds and annuities have gone from being niche products to core products at banks."

The largest category of new entrants was banks with assets of $1 billion or less. This group grew by 787, or 29%, from 1992 to 1996. That growth rate lagged the 53% rate for banks with assets of more than $1 billion. However, some of the increase in the number of larger banks offering investments was attributable to growth in the size of the banks themselves- a reflection of the merger trend. Among smaller banks, the new entrants are just that-newcomers to the brokerage business.

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