A group of ex-NationsBank executives have formed a marketing consulting company to help banks sell and develop a variety of retail products, including credit cards.

The new venture, Marketing Partners Inc., took advantage of the "high- level marketing talent" leaving NationsBank, said Alvin P. Perkinson, president of the company.

Three of the firm's four core members are former NationsBank officials, and at least five others who left the Charlotte, N.C., superregional are working for Marketing Partners as project consultants.

They make up what Mr. Perkinson described as a "stand-alone" bank marketing department.

Most recently, Marketing Partners worked with First Union Corp. on its smart card launch in Atlanta for the summer Olympics.

Brad Iverson, director of consumer marketing at First Union and a former NationsBank marketing executive, said, "Lots of talented and experienced marketers have left the big banks for one reason or another."

NationsBank has been especially hard hit of late. In addition to the executives who left for Marketing Partners, Robert Stock, its credit card marketing director, recently took a position with Visa U.S.A. But Mr. Perkinson said, "I'm not sure there is a story about a mass exodus from NationsBank because people are unhappy there."

Mr. Perkinson, 36, left the bank in January 1994 to work for Start Inc., one of NationsBank's affinity card marketing partners. Start, which has gone out of business, developed a patented system for giving cardholders rebates when they shopped at certain merchants. The rebates were swept into an annuity account.

Mr. Perkinson, who also worked on the Start project while at NationsBank, left Start to form Marketing Partners last year.

He recruited David Carter, a seven-year veteran of NationsBank, who left in August 1995 to start his own consulting business, and Gayle P. McClure, a former sales training manager for NationsBank.

Mr. Carter, 37, who was a senior vice president for merchandising and promotions at NationsBank, has a background in advertising and communications. Ms. McClure expects to rely on her training and experience in bank marketing in the new venture.

Marketing Partners is developing proposals for six banks - two top national banks, two community banks, and two midsize banks, said Mr. Perkinson, who declined to provide names.

He said the institutions are interested in working with Marketing Partners on a variety of projects, including credit cards, a retail customer loyalty program, and "relationship products" that package checking, savings, and other products.

Despite his ties to NationsBank, Mr. Perkinson said he has not contacted the bank.

Drawing on his experiences at Start Inc., Mr. Perkinson developed a similar marketing program called Save America. "Start lives in the Save America name," he said.

The idea behind Save America is to give bank customers rebates to reward use of credit, debit, or ATM cards. The rebates could be applied to a number of financial products.

For example, a customer might get a 1% rebate on monthly auto loan payments, or a bank may negotiate partnerships with long distance telephone companies to give customers discounts of as much as 10% on phone charges.

Since Start's demise, a New York-based investment company with a controlling interest in Start has put its patent on the block.

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