In response to the National Association of Securities Dealers' continuing-education requirements, Fidelity Investments has set up a Fidelity Advisor Institute for investment professionals.

Its programs will cover a wide range of topics, including sector funds, variable insurance products, and the selling of investment products, Fidelity said.

The seminars could help brokerages comply with NASD rules that require them to assess their needs for knowledge about investment products and investment strategies, and to set up courses for their brokers, the fund giant said.

Don Holborn, senior vice president of Boston-based Fidelity Investments, stressed that the institute would be product-neutral. It "has nothing to do with Fidelity," Mr. Holborn said. "It's an educational concept that we are putting forth for the benefit of our clients."

Fidelity's position as the nation's largest mutual fund company and a leading provider of financial services may give the venture added credibility, bank brokerage officials said.

"The fact that they have their own funds probably gives them more insight into what problems come up and what situations people should be aware of in the different aspects of mutual fund selling," said Melinda Broderick, chief compliance officer at 1784 Investment Services, a unit of BankBoston.

Bankers said they had no qualms about relying on a major mutual fund provider to teach them about investment product sales.

Alan Leach, president of Deposit Guaranty Investments Inc., Jackson, Miss., pointed out that, given the scope of topics, it would be difficult for the Fidelity institute to focus on and promote Fidelity products.

"They are going to cover a lot of ground, and mutual funds are going to be a very small proportion of the topics covered," he said.

But Stewart Rose of Alexander S. Rose Co. in Boston said the institute is another value-added service to try to tie the brokers to a particular company.

"Anything that Fidelity can do on the brokers' behalf is going to endear them to that particular fund company," he said.

Mr. Holborn said some of the training would be given through "distance learning" - on CD-ROMs, over the Internet, and through desktop video conferencing.

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