Dean Witter, Discover & Co. is giving the bank brokerage business another try.
The financial services giant, whose heralded joint venture with NationsBank fell apart 15 months ago, has cut a slimmed-down version of the deal with Banc One Corp.
Under the agreement, announced late Wednesday, the Columbus, Ohio-based banking company gains access to the vast resources of one of the nation's premier brokerage firms, but retains control over its sales force. Dean Witter, in turn, snares a potentially lucrative contract with a prestigious client whose 1,502-branch network spans 12 states.
The pairing shows how banks and brokerages remain intrigued with the idea of teaming to deliver retail investments - even though several much- vaunted strategic alliances have flopped in recent years.
"It's the trend toward renting scale and prowess," said James M. McCormick, president of First Manhattan Consulting Group, New York. By allying with companies with expertise in businesses such as brokerage, "banks can go much further faster, and concentrate resources on their customer base instead of building infrastructure."
A Dean Witter executive said the arrangement with Banc One is the new blueprint for what he hopes will be many partnerships with banks.
"Our goal is not to be all things to all people, but to serve a select number of top consumer banks in this country," Richard F. Powers, executive vice president of the company's brokerage arm, Dean Witter Reynolds.
Mr. Powers maintained that the two-year venture with NationsBank was a success, but said Dean Witter ultimately decided it didn't want to be tied down to one partner.
Under the NationsBank deal, Dean Witter brokers had been stationed in bank branches; ensuing culture clashes are said to have contributed to the demise of that program.
The new deal calls for Banc One to continue to employ and supervise the 2,200 sales representatives who sell mutual funds, annuities, stocks, and bonds in its offices.
By distancing itself from the day-to-day management of the sales force, Dean Witter will be able to focus on selling its technology and investment sales acumen, Mr. Powers said. He added that banks represent "an important growth component for our company."
Banc One chief executive John B. McCoy said the alliance should give his company an edge in the competition for consumers' savings and investment dollars.
"I am convinced that over the next 10 years, the winners are going to be the ones that can meet all of a customer's financial needs - total financial providers," Mr. McCoy said in a telephone interview.
Within six months, Dean Witter will begin offering training and sales support to Banc One's sales representatives; clearing Banc One's mutual fund, stock, and bond trades; and helping Banc One with its brokerage compliance chores.
A. Michael Lipper, president of Lipper Analytical Services, Summit, N.J., said the two companies appear to be a good fit.
"You can look at Dean Witter as being the least New York-oriented of the wire houses. Culturally, it might fit better with a mid-American bank like Banc One," he said. However, he added, "I see this as a significant supplier relationship and not a joint venture."
A. Stewart Rose, a Boston-based consultant, said Banc One was wise to tap Dean Witter's expertise. "The bank has little to lose because they keep control."
David R. Meuse, who heads Banc One's asset management and brokerage business, said the ability to leverage Dean Witter's investment in technology - reportedly $100 million in the past several years - was an important draw for his company.
"We could have spent the time building this infrastructure, but I'd rather outsource the support services and concentrate on serving the customer," said Mr. Meuse, chief executive of Banc One Capital Holdings Corp.
Banc One executives said Dean Witter will earn fees from training employees, managing brokerage accounts, clearing transactions, and extending margin loans. However, neither Banc One nor Dean Witter officials would provide details.
Michael J. Reed, president of Banc One Securities Corp., will continue to oversee the company's investment sales force. He said he expects investment sales volume to hit $1.2 billion in 1996, up from $900 million last year.