Looking to streamline its asset management business, Associated Banc- Corp is consolidating four trust units to form an investment management subsidiary.

Associated Investment Management is to manage $5 billion of common and collective trust funds, with most held in retail accounts.

Green Bay, Wis.-based Associated plans to form the unit this summer by combining its trust division with those of three banks it bought in the 1970s.

Associated executives are hoping a centralized approach will let them deliver more products to a growing retail customer base, said Mark McMullen, chief executive officer and director of investment management and trust services at the bank.

Associated, a $10.7 billion-asset banking company with 225 offices in Wisconsin and Illinois, expanded its reach last year by buying First Financial Bank, Stevens Point, Wis., with its insurance subsidiary.

Mr. McMullen said he also expects the new unit to complement Associated's other investment subsidiary, Associated Investment Services, a retail broker-dealer.

The streamlining partly reflects a broader move by the banking company away from autonomy for its regions to a more centralized management approach, a spokesman said. The investment management consolidation is designed to foster cooperation on research and day-to-day functions, he added.

Mr. McMullen said Associated has considered launching its own mutual funds-or buying a fund business. But for now it considers its trust funds "very profitable."

Mike Mahlik, a 24-year veteran of Associated's asset management business, will be president and chief operating officer of Associated Investment Management and Trust Services, the parent of Associated Investment Management.

Ken Nimmer, who has worked at Associated for 18 years, will direct the new investment subsidiary and report to Mr. McMullen.

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