Delaware Investments is adding staff for a drive to increase its mutual fund sales through banks.

The Philadelphia-based company named its first national sales manager for banks in early August. At the same time, it added two bank wholesalers, for a total of eight.

"We've got a whole group that's very desirous of succeeding," said Terry Cunningham, director of sales for the bank division of Delaware, which has $45 billion under management in mutual funds and institutional funds.

Michael J. Woods, the new national sales manager, had served as director of the firm's unit investment trust division. In his new position, he oversees the company's bank wholesaler corps and reports to Mr. Cunningham.

Mr. Woods joined the firm in 1997, when Delaware bought Voyager Investments, Minneapolis.

Sales through banks account for 12% of Delaware's fund sales, up from 6% at the start of 1997, Mr. Cunningham said. This year's bank sales are on pace to double last year's, he said, but he declined to give sales figures.

Asked to explain the increase, he said, "We've gotten better at our business."

The company gets most of its sales through about 18 banks, including Norwest, Chase Manhattan, Marine Midland, SouthTrust, and Wachovia, he said.

Delaware-which is owned by Lincoln National Corp., in Fort Wayne, Ind.- is not among the leading fund sellers through banks, industry experts say.

"They've always been a third-tier bank player," said Kenneth Kehrer, a consultant in Princeton, N.J. He said one reason is that the fund company has not distinguished itself through products or marketing approach.

Mr. Cunningham said the company adds value to bank investment programs by helping brokers to uncover hidden sales opportunities for their client portfolios. He declined to elaborate, citing competitive concerns.

Banks account for the smallest share of Delaware Investments' sales. Independent financial planners and insurance brokers account for about 47%, and wire houses and regional brokerages constitute about 40% of sales.

About $15 billion of Delaware's assets are in retail mutual funds, with the rest in pension funds and accounts for endowments, banks, insurance companies, and others.

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