Seafirst Bank is hosting several consumer-oriented investment seminars in a bid to raise the public profile of its retail investment services.

Last Saturday, the Seattle bank, a unit of BankAmerica Corp., co- sponsored the Moneytalk Personal Finance Expo, an event that drew more than 1,500 people to a downtown Seattle hotel.

The event, also sponsored by a local newspaper and a radio station, featured several nationally known financial advice columnists, including Jane Bryant Quinn and Charles A. Jaffe.

And the bank, which paid $40,000 to sponsor its share of the weekend event, has plans to hold dozens of smaller seminars this year.

"We get five times as much exposure out of these seminars as we do with traditional advertising," said Thomas W. Porter Jr., executive vice president in charge of personal financial planning services.

In staging financial advice seminars, Seafirst is exploring a marketing avenue untried by most banks.

"We're trying to expand our capability of being a financial adviser, and the thought was if we hold this (event), the people and the accounts will follow," Mr. Porter said.

Seafirst plans to solicit people who attended the expo and filled out evaluation forms.

Mr. Porter was one of several Seafirst executives who moderated panels at the seminar. He also imparted some investment advice on several radio advertisements.

The bank used Ms. Quinn and Mr. Jaffe, both of whom are syndicated columnists, to draw a crowd.

People interested in hearing Ms. Quinn's speech had to purchase tickets, sold at Seafirst investment centers. "That way we got some traffic through the branches," Mr. Porter said.

He added that Seafirst will increase the number of Seafirst seminars held this year to 100, from 30 last year. The smaller seminars are on various financial topics, and are held in bank branches and other locations. A small-business seminar held jointly with Microsoft Corp. in January drew 700 people.

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