Dreyfus Corp. is working to regain its place as a major markter of mutual funds through banks following a two-year decline.

The Mellon Bank Corp. subsidiary is introducing new incentives to get banks to sell Dreyfus funds, including rewarding top-producing brokers with leads to new customers.

Dreyfus has also begun offering demographic research for its bank brokerage clients to help them understand where to target promotions for investment products.

In addition, the firm has added three sales representatives to focus on banks, boosting the staff to 20.

"We hope to accomplish a comeback," said Elie Genadry, Dreyfus' president of institutional services and the executive overseeing the push through banks.

During the past three years, Dreyfus, known for its array of fixed- income funds, has faltered in the bank channel as investors clamored for stock offerings. By its own calculations, Dreyfus went from being the second-largest seller through banks in 1993 to 10th today.

The bond market crash of 1994, and Dreyfus' sale to Mellon that year, disrupted the company's ability to maintain a high sales level at banks, Mr. Genadry said.

Mr. Genadry said the company, which sells through 300 banks, has already seen an improvement. Sales for the first two months of this year were 300% over the same period last year, he said.

Along with other fixed-income houses, Dreyfus is scrambling to find ways to regain attention from banks, particularly by developing its marketing and training support.

"Dreyfus' competition is getting sophisticated so executives have to do more than just put their hands up and hope assets come," said Geoffrey Bobroff, a consultant in East Greenwich, R.I.

One additional step Dreyfus has taken is to limit the scope of Mr. Genadry's job so he can focus exclusively on marketing through banks. In the past, he had overseen sales through all financial intermediaries.

Dreyfus announced last week it had hired Thomas Eggers, a former PaineWebber Inc. executive, to lead sales through brokerage houses and financial planners.

Observers say such support services help, but the key to success for Dreyfus really lies in 10 stock funds it introduced last summer. "You still need to have the products, because shelf space at banks is limited," said Dennis Dolego, a partner at Financial Research Corp., which tracks mutual funds.

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