With mutual fund companies competing fiercely to sell products through banks, a new ranking shows that Putnam Financial Services has garnered the greatest share of banks' business.

The Boston-based mutual fund company's products were the top sellers at large, midsize, and small banks, according to the study conducted by American Brokerage Consultants of St. Petersburg, Fla., for the American Banker.

Franklin Resources Inc. took the second slot in all three categories. And Capital Research and Management, the Los Angeles-based purveyor of the American Funds, placed third. (Complete rankings appear on page 6A.)

Previous surveys have consistently shown Putnam and Franklin jostling, for the top two slots in sales through banks.

In American Brokerage Consultants study, mutual fund companies were ranked by their market presence. The consulting company culled its data from responses provided by 7,748 banks, savings and loans, and credit unions, 4,101 of which said they were offering investment service.

Those financial institutions were asked to list their top five mutual fund vendors in terms of sales for 1993. To determine market presence, rather than straight sales volume, American Brokerage then assessed the data using a point system.

Mutual fund companies that were cited as a bank's number one seller received five points. If the bank ranked a fund family second, it received four points; the fund family was worth three points if it was listed third; two for each instance it was fourth on the banks' lists; and one point for fifth place.

That weighted system ave Putnam a total of 623 points overall. More significantly, of the 149 institutions that sell Putnam funds, 90 said it was their top selling mutual fund family, compared to the 29 banks that said Franklin funds were their top sellers.

The top three vendors overall swept the same spots in each of the category breakdowns. For the purposes of this study, the consulting firm classified financial institutions with $50 million to $250 million in assets as small; those with $250 million to $1 billion as midsize; and those with more than $1 billion as large institutions.

However, not all companies ranked consistently. Colonial Mutual Funds, for example, was fourth in every category, except for sales through midsize institutions, where it plummeted to ninth.

A spokesman for Colonial said he was surprised by the company's ranking in that category. It may have been a "statistical blip," he said, because Colonial does not purposely focus its sales effort on a particular segment of the banking industry.

"We don't approach banks in terms of size," he said.

By contrast, Oppenheimer Management Corp., which was fifth in the midsize category, has been concentrating on selling through medium-sized banks, said Maryann Bruce, Oppenheimer's director for financial institutions divisions.

Oppenheimer was "a little late to the game," when it created a sales force dedicated to marketing to banks in 1991, Ms. Bruce said.

"We made a strategic decision to go after midsized banks, because most of them only started their [investment sales] programs in the '90s and hadn't set their lists" of mutual fund vendors, she explained.

Although Oppenheimer ranked a respectable 12th overall, Ms. Bruce said, "at least we showed up in the market we were targeting." The next step, she said, is to penetrate more large and small banks.

Aim Management Group, 11th overall, made the top 10 only in the midsize category, where it placed eighth.

Aim's product mix and sales charge options hurt its sales through banks in the past, said Michael Vessels, national sales manager for financial institutions.

"Now we're able to compete better because we have a better balance of equity and income funds," Mr. Vessels said.

"We'd much rather be in the top five, and that's our goal for 1995." Mr. Vessels said.

In the American Brokerage Consultants ranking of fixed and variable annuity vendors, there were few surprises.

On the variable annuity side, the top 10 slots were "who you would expect to be there," said Richard A. Ayotte, managing partner at American Brokerage Consultants.

In all, banks identified 92 insurance companies on their lists of top annuity vendors.

Banks that were polled identified 70 different fund vendors, and 32 of those vendors do business with only one financial institution, "so they are barely in the game," Mr. Ayotte said.

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