New Dartmouth Bank has a secret weapon in its campaign to win investment products customers: safe deposit box attendant David Murdo.

If customers at the Manchester, N.H., bank ask Mr. Murdo for scissors, he reasons they are preparing to redeem coupon bonds stored in their safe deposit boxes. And he figures they would like to reinvest the money 7 in a mutual fund, perhaps.

"So I tell them we've got investment services we can offer them," Mr. Murdo said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Murdo has become pretty good at spotting potential investment products customers since he went through a referrals seminar sponsored by Invest Financial Corp. early this year.

Invest offers the seminar in conjunction with the investment products sales program it runs for the $1.5 billion-asset New Dartmouth Bank.

Fifteen safe deposit box customers, acting on Mr. Murdo's suggestion, have made appointments with Invest sales representatives. About half of those meetings have yielded sales.

To be sure, not every bank chooses to train its safe deposit box guards to make investment referrals. Most banks limit such training to tellers, platform employees, and officers.

Still, New Dartmouth's experience vividly demonstrates that some unlikely folks, such as guards and parking lot attendants, can play a part in boosting mutual fund sales. Invest prides itself on taking an all-encompassing approach to marketing investment products, said Robert Burke, senior vice president and director of productivity for the Tampa, Fla.-based marketing company.

Sales representatives and program managers receive extensive training at Invest's Tampa headquarters. For rank-and-file employees, classes are held in branches to teach workers how investment products fit with the bank's more traditional offerings.

As part of this training, employees are taught to listen for indications that a customer would be a good prospect.

Fulfilling a Spectrum of Needs

For example, customers who mention retirement planning are considered prospects for annuities. Younger customers who talk about their children's college education are potential mutual fund purchasers.

Bank employees typically receive small incentive payments for making referrals. But Mr. Burke said the real motivation comes from knowing that their efforts are helping their employer increase business and profits.

Mr. Murdo is a testament to the effort's success. He has learned to listen for savings bond holders who gripe about low yields. "If I know they have money, or even if a newly married couple comes in, I might ask them to consider a financial plan" done by Invest reps, he said.

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