In a sign of the times, one leading mutual fund company reports that banks are clamoring for its stock offerings with a greater appetite than its fixed-income platter.

Boston-based Putnam Investments said that 57% of its fund sales through banks during the past five months have been equity offerings. In the past, Putnam derived more bond sales from banks.

"Banks are doing a much better job at presenting needs-based selling, and recognizing that equities play a role in a client's portfolio," said Lou Tasiopoulos, a managing director overseeing the financial institutions division.

As a leading seller of mutual funds through banks, Putnam's results are a barometer of changing bank brokerage practices. Putnam's sales results underscore a shift among bank brokers as they attempt to satisfy customers seeking the greater long-term capital growth that comes with stock investment.

In 1993, for instance, only 32% of Putnam's sales through banks were in stock portfolios. Financial planners and brokerage firms have consistently sold a greater percentage of stock funds than bond funds, said Mr. Tasiopoulos.

Stock funds made up 50% of Putnam's sales mix through banks last year, up from 47% in 1994.

Putnam, which manages $87.7 billion in fund assets, sells its funds through 700 banks and credit unions, or 90% of financial institutions with brokerage units, Mr. Tasiopoulos said.

Banks contribute 30% of Putnam's total sales, he said.

He added that banks are selling more stock funds in part because they are attracting "more seasoned" brokers.

Of the 69 portfolios Putnam offers, the most popular with bank brokers as well as other financial advisers are the Putnam Fund for Income and Growth and the Putnam New Opportunities growth fund.

Stock funds are contributing 55% of sales at St. Paul Bancorp, Franklin Park, Ill., said Gerald W. Thomas, president of the banking company's brokerage unit. That's a reversal from 1994 when bond funds made up 65% of sales at the banking company.

Mr. Thomas attributed the increase to a change in the brokerage unit's customer base. The banking company has attracted more baby-boomers who seek stock portfolios to help fund college education for their children and retirement for themselves.

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