Bank brokerages may soon have the forum they have sought from the National Association of Securities Dealers.
The NASD's board of directors, at a meeting next month, is expected to create a committee focusing on banks' investment sales programs, according to a top association official.
"I would be very surprised if it didn't happen," said R. Clark Hooper, NASD vice president in charge of advertising.
The group's decision comes after months of cajoling by banking trade groups and industry executives, who have maintained that such a committee is sorely needed, given the NASD's growing focus on banks' brokerage programs.
The association, which sets professional standards for the brokerage industry, has similar standing committees for other groups, such as brokerages affiliated with insurance companies. The proposed bank brokerage committee would advise the NASD's staff on issues of special concern to brokers operating in banks.
Ms. Hooper said the committee could be up and running by early February, giving its members time to consider the NASD's recently issued proposals to regulate mutual fund sales by bank brokerages.
The proposed rules, which would create a regulatory framework for bank investment sales, drew fire from bankers when they came to light last month. The NASD is soliciting comment on the proposals until Feb. 15. They could then be revised by the NASD and submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which could approve them after seeking further public comment.
Industry observers say they expect bankers to scramble for seats on the NASD panel.
"People will be fighting for places in line," said Robert M. Kurucza, a law partner at Morrison & Foerster in Washington. "They want the chance for input at that level."
Indeed, Ms. Hooper indicated that she has already begun fielding inquiries from bank investment program representatives.
One bank brokerage executive who has already faxed his resume to Ms. Hooper is Dan Phillips, vice president for mutual fund sales at First Commerce Corp., New Orleans.
The panel would give bankers "a terrific opportunity," he said, to tell the NASD about training, seminars, and other steps banks have taken to educate customers about investment products.
"I don't think they understand all we're doing," Mr. Phillips said. "We need to communicate to the NASD we are legitimate."
Ms. Hooper said that, in addition to representatives of bank brokerage subsidiaries, the panel would include executives from marketing companies that operate sales programs for banks and from mutual fund and annuity companies that supply products to banks.
The Bank Securities Association, one of several trade groups that has pushed for the committee, welcomed the NASD's prospective decision. The committee "will be an important vehicle for the banking industry to respond to areas affecting the marketing of securities and investment services," said executive director James Shelton.