The most successful bank investment programs have branch sales forces as well as dedicated brokers, a study commissioned by the Bank Securities Association shows.
Bank branch investment salespeople do well when deposit products are popular, and brokers do well when the stock market does, according to the association's quarterly productivity and performance report. The study was conducted by Kenneth Kehrer Associates, Princeton, N.J.
Hybrid programs, with platform people and brokers, reap the benefits of both and do well in all environments.
"Hybrid programs make absolute sense for depository institutions," said Edward Diamond, president of Dime Securities, New York.
Indeed, when annuities were more popular than mutual funds in 1994, bank programs staffed only with platform salespeople did better than broker-only programs, said Kenneth Kehrer of Kenneth Kehrer Associates. The following year mutual fund sales surpassed those of annuities, and broker-only programs' productivity surpassed that of branch banker-only programs. Hybrid programs, with brokers and part-time salespeople, did better than both each year, Mr. Kehrer said.
The study evaluated the productivity of 28 bank securities programs. According to the study, sales by bank platform people were down 31% in the first quarter from the same period last year. Fully dedicated bank brokers increased their business 23% during the same time.
"Hybrid programs even out the ups and downs," Mr. Kehrer said. Programs with only a platform sales force can be volatile, he said, because the sales force's focus can change if the bank begins pushing products other than investments.
At Dime, mutual fund sales were up last year, Mr. Diamond said, as they were at most bank investment programs. But unlike other bank programs, annuity sales were up too, thanks to its hybrid sales force, he said.
The savings bank's hybrid program came together when Dime Bancorp merged with Anchor Bancorp in 1994. Anchor had a platform sales force, and Dime had only fully dedicated brokers. Today, the program has about 60 full-time brokers and 75 platform salespeople. There are also a few hundred employees licensed to sell only annuities.
Programs with no fully licensed brokers can be volatile. Productivity swings with interest rates, and if a bank happens to push home equity loans one month, Mr. Kehrer said, investment sales are likely to suffer as the reps' attention is diverted elsewhere.
Other banks with hybrid securities programs are First Union Corp., Charlotte, N.C.; Compass Bank, Birmingham, Ala.; and Banc One and Huntington Bancshares, both of Columbus, Ohio. Many other banks are looking at the strategy, and Mr. Kehrer said he expects to see more roll out hybrid sales programs.