Senior vice president Bank of America, Los Angeles

You'd think that Debra McGinty-Poteet would be content with running the banking industry's biggest proprietary mutual fund operation.

Think again.

Ms. McGinty-Poteet, 36, oversees $17 billion in fund assets managed by BankAmerica Corp., the nation's second-biggest bank company. But she isn't satisfied.

"Our goal within five years is to be in the top 10 of all mutual fund companies, or within shooting distance," the banker says.

Ambitious? Perhaps, but mutual fund giants like Fidelity and Vanguard should be taking the former Security Pacific Corp. executive seriously.

Since Ms. McGinty-Poteet took charge of the fund complex last April -- when BankAmerica merged with Security Pacific - the bank's combined fund assets under management have almost doubled.

"We're currently No. 26 [among all funds by assets], " said Ms. McGinty-Poteet, who was formally named senior vice president and manager of mutual funds last June. "But we were No. 36 at the beginning of 1992."

Most of the growth resulted from a terrific sales environment and well-laid expansion plans, not from the merger itself. When the banks combined, they had fund assets of $9 billion - $8 billion from Security Pacific's Pacific Horizon funds and $1 billion from Bank of America's First funds.

"This is very much a |keep working your network' business," says Ms. McGinty-Poteet, who has marketed the funds primarily to institutional investors.

Security Pacific was one of the first bank companies to invest heavily in selling funds, laying the groundwork for its strategy back in 1987.

"In the last two years, all that spadework has started to pay off," Ms. McGinty-Poteet says.

Low interest rates on bank deposits, she concedes, also have helped. But she thinks increasing financial sophistication among bank customers will keep mutual funds in demand, even as interest rates rise.

"It's hitting bankers right between the eyes right now," she says. "By 1995, there will be as many assets in mutual funds as there are in bank deposits."

Ms. McGinty-Poteet, an accomplished horsewoman, joined Security Pacific as a personnel officer in 1983. She specialized in hiring investment and trust officers, and that launched her into product management and development.

By 1986, she was asked to take a crack at developing offshore mutual funds.

Now she is an old hand at a fee-based business that has suddenly become a major focus for many banks.

In 1987, she was part of a team of Security Pacific executives who helped organize Concord Financial Group Inc., a New York-based firm that is a major sponsor and distributor of bank proprietary mutual funds. The bank was forced to work through an outside company because of Glass-Steagall Act restrictions. "We can't own it, but it distributes our product in ways that we as a bank couldn't, " she says. We have an option to purchase a portion of the company should that become possible."

Although Security Pacific had a leg up in developing mutual funds for institutional and corporate clients, Bank of America has been more "visionary" in selling brokerage products to retail customers, she says.

The merger, she adds, has clearly been of value.

"We've never had it so good," says Ms. McGinty-Poteet. We are in a frenzy to put out new product and hire additional salespeople. By the second quarter, we will have some pretty amazing things being delivered to our customers."

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