James Litton can't afford to be too proud.

As chief executive of $40 million-asset First Mineola Corp., a bank in Mineola, Tex., Mr. Litton finds himself playing many professional roles - including investment sales representative.

At a small-town bank with 21 employees "the president just has to do everything," said Mr. Litton, 68, who is also chief exectuive. "I'm not doing any of the janitorial work anymore, though."

In an age when mutual fund companies and discount brokerages are only an "800" phone call away, small-town bank CEOs like Mr. Litton find themselves needing to offer investment services to keep customers.

But unlike their large-bank counterparts, hometown bankers like Mr. Litton can't afford armies of in-house brokers - or even one high-salaried producer.

"Small-bank CEOs are asking themselves, 'How do I keep customers from being wooed by Edward D. Jones & Co., which offers CDs, credit cards, and checking accounts?'" said Gary Teagno, president of the Community Banking Network. The network, a unit of the Independent Bankers Association of America, helps banks design brokerage programs.

Indeed, Mr. Litton's bank finds itself in a heated competition for the savings dollars of Mineola's 4,300 residents.

Four banks, an Edward D. Jones broker, and several brokerage firms from nearby Tyler are eyeing Mineolans, who include store owners and growers of sweet potatoes and hay.

The East Texas town "may have all together 15 or 20 people that are rich," Mr. Litton said. "But people with smaller incomes do invest."

First Mineola doesn't advertise its investment services. Mr. Litton said customers come to him for advice because he's the CEO and his age is appealing to senior citizens.

He shuns mutual funds with sales charges, preferring to charge a percentage of the assets he manages.

The bank entered the brokerage business in the early 1980s, and expanded to a full-service operation in 1992. Mr. Litton turned a bank data processor into a licensed broker to take investment orders, freeing himself to manage the $10 million of trust assets the bank holds.

The spur to the expansion was the success of the Jones brokerage.

"The first two brokers didn't do anything, but the third one comes along and he's gotten business from all the banks," Mr. Litton said. "He works hard, joins the church, and everything. He's a nice guy."

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