Richard S. Braddock, the former Citicorp president, is about to try his hand at running a mutual fund company. And he is already looking to boost sales through banks.

Last week, he was named head of Van Kampen/American Capital, which will be created by the merger of Van Kampen Merritt Cos. of Oak Terrace, Ill., and American Capital Corp. of Houston.

Mr. Braddock, who resigned from Citicorp in 1992, will be running the merged company in his capacity as a partner in Clayton Dubilier & Rice, an investment partnership that acquired Van Kampen Merritt last year.

While neither Van Kampen nor American have been big sellers through banks, there are signs that the combined entity will be more active.

When the merger was announced last Wednesday, "six banks said they would put us on their preferred list" of mutual fund products, Mr. Braddock said in a telephone interview.

That is an especially good sign since "more and more banks are shortening the list of [mutual fund] companies they do business with," he said.

Mr. Braddock is widely credited with pumping up Citi's consumer banking business. He said, however, that his banking experience will by no means assure him of snaring bank business for Van Kampen/American Capital.

"I certainly have some friends in the banking business," he acknowledged. But he expects they will make decisions based on factors other than friendship.

After leaving Citicorp, Mr. Braddock became chief executive of Medco Containment Services Inc., a health care company that was recently acquired by Merck & Co. He moved to Clayton Dubilier & Rice in June.

The merger of the mutual fund firms comes as both companies have been losing market share, according to Eli Neusner, a consultant with Cerulli Associates, Boston.

Merging the two is "a way of stemming the tide," Mr. Neusner said. The merger will create a broader spectrum of products, which should help them gain favor with banks, he explained.

While Van Kampen Merritt ranked as the 12th-biggest seller of mutual funds through banks in an survey last year, its product line is dominated by bond funds.

With the bond markets in turmoil this year, and interest rates rising, Van Kampen's offerings have lost some of their appeal.

In contrast, American Capital, which specializes in stock funds, has not been a strong seller through banks, where customers tend to be more conservative. However, now that equity funds are coming into vogue among bank customers, American Capital's longer, and stronger, track record is a plus, Mr. Braddock said.

Because of their product concentrations, "neither company could compete effectively alone," Mr. Braddock said.

By combining the two companies, "we will be able to push the broader product line through all distribution sources," he said.

Van Kampen/American Capital will rank as one of the nation's 20 largest mutual fund companies, with more than $38.5 billion in assets under management.

Van Kampen' currently manages about $22 billion of assets, down from the $33.5 billion it managed 16 months ago.

Although American Capital manages about $16.6 billion of assets, Mr. Braddock views the two firms' alliance as "a merger of equals."

As head of the combined company, he will provide oversight and guidance.

"My major emphasis will be putting those companies together in a balanced way, So that the sum is greater than the parts," he said.

Van Kampen, which began selling its funds through banks a decade ago, has had a tough time building its business through banks.

Although the company aggressively sold its government bond fund through banks from 1984 until 1987, the stock market crash ended its sales streak.

Van Kampen has been focusing more attention on banks since 1991, when a study by McKinsey & Co. concluded that the company should put more emphasis on selling through banks.

The goal is to have banks account for half of all sales.

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