The National Association of Securities Dealers is planning a major expansion of its network of broker-education centers, through a partnership with a nationwide training company.
The NASD's proposed alliance with Sylvan Learning Systems, Columbia, Md., comes in the wake of beefed-up education requirements implemented for brokers last July.
The agreement, which is expected to be made final next month, would eventually increase the number of educational centers available to brokers to 280 - five times the current number.
Bank brokers reacted favorably to the proposed expansion.
"Anytime you have more testing sites you have better access, which means less time off work" for employees, said Betty A. Moon, vice president and training director in the Cleveland office of Huntington Investments Co., Columbus, Ohio.
"I see that as a significant improvement," Ms. Moon said.
NASD officials were unable to say when the first Sylvan center would be added once the deal is completed.
But a spokesman for the self-regulatory trade organization said the centers would make their debut "certainly by the end of the year."
As brokers began to comply with the continuing-education requirements late last year, several of the NASD's 53 training and testing centers, including those in Melville, N.Y., and Boston, started to feel the strain.
The NASD has taken interim steps to meet increased demand.
"We have beefed up the current network, expanded some sites and will move quickly in a couple of locations that are quite crowded," said Frank J. McAuliffe, NASD's vice president for membership who also oversees continuing education.
Brokers must now complete regulatory and product training on their second, fifth and tenth anniversaries in the industry.
This year, the NASD expects to conduct a total of 348,230 testing and training sessions for brokers, up from 271,153 in 1995.
"It was difficult to think about expanding much more without raising testing fees," Mr. McAuliffe said.
Instead the NASD decided to partner with Sylvan. "We can still control the content side of the testing but use them for the delivery," he said.
The arrangement would increase total training capacity and offer more locations for brokers throughout the country without additional investment by the NASD.
Indeed, the $75 continuing-education fee, which covers program costs, may fall once the partnership is fully under way, Mr. McAuliffe said.