Magazine article American Banker

1st Union Relies on Platform Sales in Northeast

Magazine article American Banker

1st Union Relies on Platform Sales in Northeast

Article excerpt

Making a play to expand its brokerage operations into the Northeast, First Union Corp. has begun using platform workers in newly acquired branches to sell mutual funds and annuities.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based banking company completed its acquisition of First Fidelity Bancorp. in December and announced last week that it had begun selling investments in its 680 new northeastern branches. The former First Fidelity branches are in Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.

"The early results have been positive," said Donald A. McMullen Jr., chief executive of First Union Capital Management. "Now that we have the products in place, we plan to get the word out through our branch personnel."

The new sales force comprises 984 branch employees who have been trained and licensed to sell funds or annuities and another 100 full-service brokers who can sell a broader range of investments, such as individual stocks and bonds.

First Union's strategy has been to blanket its markets with as many sales representatives as it can muster. Indeed, the company has doubled its sales force during the past year, to more than 2,900 investment reps, most of whom will be platform employees.

Other banking companies, including Huntington Bancshares and U.S. Bancorp, have built the sale of investment products around branch workers. First Union's program is seen as one of the most aggressive.

Some observers say, however, that a dependence on platform salespeople who meet much less rigorous licensing requirements than full-time brokers has its drawbacks. …

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