Mellon Bank Corp. is stepping up sales of mutual funds and annuities in branches.

The $36 billion-asset company, based in Pittsburgh, is hiring brokers to bulk up a program that currently has fewer than 100 investment representatives covering 450 branches in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware.

Mellon will employ the new brokers as personal investment consultants with InvestNet, the bank's in-house broker dealer.

Mellon is looking primarily for representatives with Series 7 credentials from the National Association of Securities Dealers.

Holders of this brokers' license can sell individual stocks and bonds as well as mutual funds and annuities.

Wide Search

The bank is finding staff at brokerages, financial planning firms, insurance agencies, and in its own ranks, said Bruce Wheeler, executive vice president for regional banking, who is charge of the buildup.

Mellon "listened to our customers" in deciding to broaden its investment product thrust, Mr. Wheeler said.

Focus on Laurel Funds

Customers were looking for alternative investments in the low interest rate environment, he said.

Mellon, like other banks, found customers weren't rolling over their certificate of deposit.

Mellon's Laurel family of nine mutual funds serves as a cornerstone for the increased retail selling effort.

Laurel funds, which include stock and bond offerings as well as several money market funds, have $2.4 billion of assets under management.

Mellon may also begin offering retail customers some of the 19 mutual funds managed by Boston Co., Mr. Wheeler said. Boston Co. funds have $1.4 billion of assets under management.

Mellon acquired Boston Co., a Boston-based mutual fund distributor, earlier this year for cash and stock worth $1.453 billion.

Mellon also offers annuities and products from a preferred list of five mutual fund families.

The bank is taking great pains to make sure that customers are sold the most appropriate products, Mr. Wheeler said.

Training Program

To avoid potential problems, brokers go through a bank-designed training program and are also required to compile information about clients' investment needs and risk tolerances.

This benefits customers as well as the bank, which recognizes that regulators are paying, more attention than ever to, banks' investment programs, Mr. Wheeler said.

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