It looks like "if you build it, they will come" works for Leslie E. Bains, the head of domestic private banking Republic National Bank of New York.

Ms. Bains was hired two years ago to build a strong private banking business practically from scratch.

Management envisioned a fourth pillar of corporate strength as important to Republic as it retail, institutional private banking, and institutional businesses.

And the dream seems to be coming true, a recent interview with Ms. Bains suggests.

Assets under management have grown by $1.5 billion since she arrived, to $4 billion, and are on schedule for the targeted $10 billion by the end of the decade.

The inflows came from more than doubling the private banking staff, to about 100 people; from a new asset allocation model, and from a lot of support by senior management.

"Not one day goes by that one of the members of our senior management doesn't get involved," Ms. Bains said.

"Our clients have responded very well."

Her efforts have won Wall Street response, too.

Last month Merrill Lynch Co. analyst Judah S. Kraushaar, recommending Republic stock as a near-term and long-term "buy," said he was doing so largely because of its private banking business, which he called a "high- multiple business."

His opinion is apparently shared by other analysts.

Mark Alpert of Alex. Brown & Sons said it made sense for Republic, which has a strong international private presence, to size up a similar business in the United States.

"When Republic sets out to do something, it tends to accomplish it," Mr. Alpert said. "And they'll make sure that the job is done right, rather than quickly."

Historically, Republic has been known for focusing on preservation of capital. The 1994 annual report boasts of its being "a secure, well capitalized institution."

But lately, thanks to Ms. Bains' efforts, the bank has taken steps to be innovative as well.

All of Republic's private bankers have access to a computer-based system that links all clients and accounts. Come next month, private banking clients will receive consolidated statements of all their Republic accounts.

Last December, Republic kicked off a tailored asset allocation account, the Republic Investment Management Account, which employs outside money managers except for the bank's own international equity fund.

"Having worked at a number of major institutions, I know there is no place that does everything extraordinarily well," said Ms. Bains. "As a result of that, we decided to concentrate on the best of the best to be managing the funds."

Ms. Bains was recruited to Republic from Citicorp, where she led a group that serves clients with at least $10 million in assets. Before that, she worked led Chase Manhattan Bank's domestic private banking operations.

At Republic, Ms. Bains, an executive vice president, reports to Jeffrey C. Keil, president of Republic New York Corp.

Using outside managers - the so-called manager of managers approach - is rare among banks, because fees are lower and but it's time consuming to supervise each manager.

But Ms. Bains says that Republic will attract more clients by using the best money managers - and that private banking is not only about counting every dime.

Someone in the investment management business alone would take a different view, she said "but we're in the relationship business."

Last year the bank also launched its own family of mutual funds. Although the funds, which presently hold $275 million in assets, are offered through the private bank, retail customers can also buy them. The minimum investment is $1,000.

The private bank's minimum is $1 million in liquid assets or $5 million in net worth.

Republic's top management is already showing off its private banking business. This week the bank is starting a worldwide print and broadcast advertising campaign to promote its U.S. and international private banking services.

The print adds, which have the look of banknote engraving, are headed "a wealth of integrity." They are scheduled to appear in at least 17 publications here and abroad, including the European and the Latin American editions of Time magazine, Forbes magazine, and the Asian Wall Street Journal.

And there should be more to come, Ms. Bains said.

When Republic's top executives were just setting out to create a strong unit dealing with the affluent, she noted, Harvard corporate strategist Michael Porter was enlisted to help with the research.

"The senior management posed the question of whether there was more room for another private bank," she said. "The answer came back a resounding yes."

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