Bank brokers are doing a better job than their competitors in gaining female clients, a recent Oppenheimer Management Corp. survey suggests.

The study by the New York-based mutual fund company found that 72 of 100 bank brokers polled said they signed up more female clients last year than in previous years. Only about 50% of their nonbank competitors - traditional brokers, financial planners, and insurance agents - reported gaining more women as clients last year.

Maryann Bruce, the director of Oppenheimer's financial institution division, explained why bank brokerages might have the edge when it comes to signing on women.

"If you look at banks - compared with other companies in the securities business - they have more women employed there and more women in higher positions," she said.

The survey is part of a broader study that looked at the relationships brokers develop with both men and women.

The study is the fourth in a series that began in 1992 and is the brainchild of Oppenheimer president Bridget A. Macaskill, the highest- ranking woman at a major fund company.

Each year the fund company examines the investing patterns of women, and attempts to see if women are treated differently than men by financial advisers.

Oppenheimer, the nation's 17th-largest fund company, sponsored the survey in conjunction with Registered Representative, a trade magazine. Among the 1,000 polled were clients, brokers at brokerage firms, bank-based brokers, financial planners, and insurance agents. The survey was conducted by Abt Associates, a Cambridge, Mass., marketing firm.

One-third of bank brokers said they added more female than male clients over the past year - compared with 30% of financial planners, a group that boasts of long-term relationships with clients.

On average, bank brokers tend to have a slightly higher percentage of female clients than their competitors. The responding bank reps said 23% of their clients were women.

Brokers at national securities firms said 21% of their clients were women, and other competitors said less than 20% of their clients were women.

Ms. Bruce surmised that banks are more inclined to market to women because they employ more female bank brokers. Oppenheimer's study found that only 27% of all male financial advisers ever directed marketing efforts at women.

One bank that is trying to snare female clients is Union Bank, San Francisco. Elizabeth Fisher, president of Union's Los Angeles-based brokerage unit, UB Investment Services Inc., began offering seminars to professional women about three months ago.

Union Bank has been tapping its customer base seeking professional women such as doctors and accountants.

Conducted at hotel banquet rooms or at branches, seminars tend to be more successful than other marketing methods such as direct mail campaigns or newspaper advertisements, Ms. Fisher said.

"At least you're speaking to people face-to-face," she said.

It's too early to tell how successful marketing to women is at Union Bank, but Ms. Fisher said that of the approximately 100 women who came to one recent seminar, 10 have made appointments with one or another of her 28 bank brokers.

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