LaSalle National Corp. is revving up its retail brokerage unit after bringing in a securities industry veteran to run it.
"This is a real chance to put my money where my mouth is and see if I know what I'm talking about," said Thomas E. Ryan 3d, chief executive of LaSalle Financial Services, the Chicago based banking company's retail broker-dealer.
Mr. Ryan joined LaSalle five months ago from Keystone Investments Inc., where he was a vice president in the bank division.
Before his stint with the Boston-based mutual fund company, Mr. Ryan engineered Pioneer Group's mutual fund sales through banks.
His task at LaSalle, he said, is to make retail brokerage as much a part of the bank as deposits products or loans.
"Senior management is committed to building the best distribution network they can," Mr. Ryan said. "We're trying to integrate investment products into the total retail line of bank."
As part of that effort, Mr. Ryan is expanding the brokerage's product line to appeal to investors ranging from the "novice to the very sophisticated."
LaSalle, a unit of ABN Amro North America, is relying on sister subsidiary Chicago Corp. for some help.
The regional broker dealer will soon be clearing securities trades for LaSalle and is already providing unit investment trusts and access to some debt instruments it underwrites.
"Packaged products will still be the mainstay of our business," Mr. Ryan said, but "a GMAC smart note ... will be available."
Mr. Ryan has pared down the brokerage's fund vendors to the handful of firms that have accounted for "98% of our business."
They are Putnam Investments, Aim Management Group, Zurich-Kemper Investments, OppenheimerFunds Inc., Dreyfus Corp., and the bank's proprietary Rembrandt funds.
In return for a place on the brokerage's short list, Mr. Ryan wants the firms' commitment to support LaSalle's brokers with more training, wholesaling, and marketing materials.
"It's the right idea" to ask for real fund vendor support, said Geoffrey H. Bobroff, a mutual fund consultant in East Greenwich, R.I. "But I'm not sure the fund groups are ready to buy into it yet."
But even when fund companies deliver the goods, banks are often unable to weave the support materials together coherently, another observer said.
"The tools and marketing materials are all out there," said A. Stewart Rose, a Boston-based mutual fund consultant, "The hurdle has been for banks to use them properly."