Wachovia Corp. is in the midst of an unusual investment training program in which brokers and branch employees are taught at the same time.

The $36 billion-asset banking company, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., launched the training program when it announced plans in April to increase the number of branch-based brokers from 55 to 120.

The brokers, who are all fully certified with Series 7 licenses, are going through an intensive 11-week training program designed to make them experts in Wachovia's approach to investment sales.

While the brokers are being trained, tellers and platform workers are, too.

Their classes are shorter and less intensive than those given to the brokers. But the goal is the same - to make them experts in Wachovia's approach to investment sales.

The bank wants all of its branch employees to be fully aware not only of what the bank sells, but of how references are handled, and of what is allowed under banking rules.

"They wanted to make sure that everyone is up to speed on compliance at the same time," said Jeffrey Sucec, president of Financial Training Resources of Lombard, Ill., which Wachovia hired to do the training.

The training is being handled a branch at a time in each of Wachovia's 494 branches in the Carolinas and Georgia. The program is nearing its completion, with only 151 branches in South Carolina left, said Brenda B. Diggs, Wachovia's senior vice president of training and staff development

Ms. Diggs said that teaching an entire branch helps management and employees smooth out any kinks in how investment sales are handled.

This approach also encourages brokers and branch employees to mingle.

This, Mr. Sucec said, was essential to increasing the referrals branch employees make to brokers.

"The program seems to break the lines of demarcation between the retail and investment areas," Mr. Sucec said.

Employees are given a combination of computer-based training, videos, seminars, and self-study.

Branch employees will have regular refresher courses and additional training, Ms. Diggs said. So far the results of the training have been encouraging, she added.

"Anytime you provide good training and ongoing support, you set yourself up for a successful program," she said.

"Tellers especially get a little bit of product knowledge that gives the some familiarity but only enough to do referrals," she added.

Wachovia isn't the only company to get training services from Financial Training. The company has done similar work for Boatmen's Banchsares and the private banking unit of American Express.

Financial Training has been doing training on a small scale for Wachovia since 1987, but nothing on the scale of this program, Mr. Susec said.

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