The new president and chief executive of PrimeVest Financial Services Inc. has a mission: 1,001 banks by 2001.

To meet this goal, he is shaking things up bit, adding job slots and looking to diversify the marketing firm's product offerings. As of February, the firm had 600 small-bank clients.

"I don't want to see us leave anything on the table," said Randall Ciccati last week at a seminar for the company's investment representatives.

In recent years, the market has become increasingly tight for companies like PrimeVest of Minneapolis, which helps community banks set up brokerages. As banks become more comfortable in the business, some have severed ties with the firms, and others have been snatched by competitors. Competition among these firms is fierce.

PrimeVest is already one of the top-ranked marketing firms. But Mr. Ciccati, who joined the company in mid-July, said he has several ideas for taking PrimeVest to the "next level." One way, he said, is to increase its emphasis on life insurance sales.

To spearhead the project Mr. Ciccati said he plans to hire about eight dedicated life insurance specialists. They would coach investment representatives and could also sell life insurance directly through PrimeVest's 650 bank, thrift, and credit union clients.

"It's a new approach to try and penetrate that market better than we have in the past," he said.

But one observer said PrimeVest is "a little late to the game." Invest Financial Corp., Tampa, and Duerr Financial Corp., Irvine, Calif., have used dedicated life specialists for a few years, said Kenneth Kehrer, a consultant in Princeton, N.J.

Still, he said, PrimeVest's efforts will benefit client banks "and help PrimeVest get into banks that they otherwise might not be able to get into."

The pilot program was proposed by Mr. Ciccati while he was national sales director at Chase Manhattan Bank.

Though never adopted at Chase, or at American Savings Bank while he was president of its broker-dealer unit, Mr. Ciccati said, he thinks the program will work for PrimeVest. "I think there's a huge opportunity with life insurance out there."

Life insurance products are often complicated, and investment representatives with brokerage backgrounds may be wary of them, he said, but making available people with specialized knowledge could help representatives over that "hump."

Meanwhile, PrimeVest is looking to improve itself in other ways, Mr. Ciccati said. It plans to hire a regional manager and four account managers, bringing its totals to five and eight, respectively.

One account manager would be responsible for about 300 bank clients that only offer discount brokerage services, Mr. Ciccati said, and he hopes to upgrade many of those operations to full-service.

In addition, PrimeVest plans to hire a national sales director for retail sales, as well as sales assistants to handle clerical work, marketing duties, and sales.

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