Bank-managed mutual funds have received Dalbar Inc.'s annual awards for retail customer service for the first time in the award's six-year history.

First Union Corp.'s Evergreen and Keystone Funds and Fleet's Galaxy Funds were among the 12 winners of the Quality Tested Service Seal award in 1996. Chase Manhattan Bank Corp.'s Vista Funds received Dalbar's Key Honor.

"Banks are now focusing energy on (customer service), so it takes some time and sincere dedication to ensure service initiatives are being paid attention to," said Kathleen Whalen, program director for the Quality Tested Service Seal award at Dalbar.

Dalbar examined the customer service offered to retail investors at 90 mutual fund companies, Ms. Whalen said. Of that total, 12 were bank-managed funds. Banks have been considered for the award for the last three years. When Dalbar began offering the award in 1990, it surveyed only 30 fund companiess.

The top award goes to fund groups that offer above-average service consistently for a year. The Key Honor is awarded to companies that offer average service for one year.

"We look at the most important elements for retail investors," Ms. Whalen said.

Dalbar evaluates telephone representatives for how accommodating they are, their attitude, their willingness to service the customer, and how knowledgeable they are about the company's services, she said.

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