Joel Calvo doesn't like to hear the word "no."

To prove his point, he brings up an incident from 20 years ago, when he was a young Merrill Lynch cold-caller in Seattle.

Back then, Mr. Calvo said, he always asked a client for a "best friend" referral. But one day he came across a disgruntled investor who refused. "What about your worst enemy?" he asked.

The broker got a lead.

Mr. Calvo hopes that resourcefulness will carry over to his new position as president and chief executive officer of PNC Bank Corp.'s brokerage unit.

Heading PNC Brokerage Corp., the 39-year-old Seattle native oversees the retail distribution of investment products, including the sale of mutual funds, annuities, and the bank's proprietary PNC Funds. He is also in charge of broker training and is a member of the bank's investment products review policy.

Since arriving in October, Mr. Calvo's first challenge has been to wring more productivity out of the current staff of brokers, because the bank has abandoned plans to double its sales force.

A year ago, PNC said it planned to add 400 brokers to its staff of 220. The goal was to have one broker for each of its 612 branches. But in October, Pittsburgh-based PNC unveiled a plan to close up to 30% of its branches within three years.

Mr. Calvo says some branches don't supply enough customers for a single broker anyway, so the plan now is to have one broker for every three branches.

"A lot of bank broker-dealers are adding numerous people to their sales staff. We're not going to do that," Mr. Calvo says.

Instead, Mr. Calvo has made changes he thinks will make the staff more effective.

He improved the credentials of one-third of the brokers, known at PNC as investment consultants. Now the whole staff is licensed to sell individual securities as well as mutual funds and annuities.

More significantly, Mr. Calvo is relying on technology to boost productivity. Every broker carries a laptop computer so he can go out and meet customers where they live. "They can immediately make transactions on their laptops," he said.

PNC Brokerage has more than $80 billion of assets under management and more than 150,000 accounts.

Mr. Calvo is also pushing brokers to look at customers' long-term needs, instead of merely hawking mutual funds as alternatives to certificates of deposit.

He encourages brokers to correspond regularly with their clients through mailings and to conduct seminars in branch lobbies and in hotel conference rooms.

Two popular seminar topics include retirement planning and the bank's new asset-allocation product, Capital Directions, which the bank unveiled last fall.

"If we are to have a bent, it's basically on clients' investment objectives, and I say that with a lot of vigor," he declared.

Mr. Calvo is an old hand at building business. He came from BankAmerica Corp., San Francisco, where he was a senior vice president and director of sales and marketing. Before going to BankAmerica, Mr. Calvo founded a small broker-dealer firm, Preferred Investments America.

At BankAmerica, he helped the West Coast institution build its brokerage unit in California and Hawaii as a regional sales director overseeing six brokers who each generated $30,000 in sales a month, he said.

Mr. Calvo said he was lured by PNC's size in the investment management business. PNC is the fifth-largest bank investment manager and the 21st- biggest brokerage company in the country.

Mr. Calvo said he wanted "the opportunity to run a broker-dealer within a banking organization that understood the investment business."

At PNC, he replaces Charles Nadaff, who left after 11 years at the bank. Mr. Nadaff had been president of the brokerage unit for a year before moving over to a broker-dealer in Philadelphia.

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