NationsBank Corp. and Dean Witter Financial Services unveiled a groundbreaking plan Monday to market stocks and bonds in bank lobbies nationwide.
By hooking up with one of the country's largest brokerage firms, the North Carolina-based banking giant will acquire overnight an aggressive sales culture such as banks have long envied. The move was hailed by industry experts as a masterstroke by NationsBank Corp. chairman Hugh McColl.
"He's got a let up on everybody else who is running around trying to train ad license their brokers," said Brian W. Smith, a partner who specializes in bank securities law at Mayer, Brown & Platt in Washington, D.C.
The deal, which awaits regulatory approval, calls for subsidiaries of NationsBank and Dean Witter to become equal partners in a new, independent brokerage firm called Nations Securities.
The firm is expected to begin operating in the first quarter of 1993, with 400 brokers in select NationsBank branches.
At a press conference in New York, Mr. McColl said the new unit is expected to break even in 1993. Within five years, NationsBank's share of profits should reach $50 million to $60 million, he said.
His company's current brokerage unit, NationsBanc Securities, is expected to make $15 million in 1992, the executive said.
"What it does for us is to move us forward about 10 or 20 years in this business," Mr. McColl said.
The company's current brokerage unit, which employs about 300 people, will be folded into the joint venture. It will include employees from both companies, they said, with NationsBank workers likely to get a good dose of training from their Dean Witter partners.
Dean Witter and Nations-Bank also unveiled plans to syndicate the firm's operations by offering brokerage products and services -- particularly their own mutual funds -- through other banks around the country.
The announcement came as Dean Witter, which also owns the Discover Card, is being spun off by its parent, Sears, Roebuck and Co.
Mr. McColl's embrace of a securities industry rival is not surprising.
He is a sometime maverick who has been rapidly expanding NationsBank through acquisitions in Texas, Virginia, and other southeastern states, amassing a network of 1,776 branches.
He threatened to withdraw from the American Bankers Association last year after accusing the trade group of failing to push aggressively for interstate branching rights.
Dean Witter, for its part, would gain access to the bank's extensive customer base at a time when many outside sponsors of mutual funds and other products are eagerly pitching for bank business.
The brokerage firm also hopes that bank lobbies will be more attractive venues for attracting new customers than Sears stores have been. Dean Witter, as part of its parent's unsuccessful attempt to create financial supermarkets, once tried to sell stocks from kiosks in Sears stores.
"We found 80% of bank customers have never had a brokerage product," said James Flynn, a spokesman for Dean Witter Financial Services. "That becomes a very interesting market."
Dean Witter appears to be taking the lead in managing the operation. Its president and chief operating officer will be Vincent P. Walls, who headed the firm's Chicago office and also was its national sales training director from 1987 to 1990. He is a senior vice president.
Charles R. King, president of NationsBanc Securities, will be executive vice president of the new firm.
Banks have increasingly declared their desire to build fee income through securities products. Indeed, Mr. McColl has identified mutual fund sales as a major component of NationsBank's retail strategy.
The biggest obstacle to banks' success, marketing experts say, has been their lack of a sales culture.
Nations Securities At a GlanceOwnership 50% by Dean Witter Financial Services, 50% by NationsBank of North Carolina
Estimatedlaunch First quarter 1993Brokers 400, employed by Dean Witter and NationsBankVenues NationsBank branches, Also, other banks will be offered franchises.President Vincent P. Walls of Dean WitterExecutive Charles R. KingV.P. of NationsBank Securities