Banc One Corp. may be the next bank to jump on the "fund of funds" bandwagon, as it looks to adopt the novel investment strategy in its 401(k) retirement plans.
The banking company intends to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 1 for permission to start six new retirement funds, possibly using the fund-of-funds structure, said David J. Kundert, chief executive of Banc One's investment management and trust group.
The structure - by which mutual funds invest in other mutual funds instead of individual securities - is seen as a way to achieve an extra level of diversification.
"It's a lot more efficient and makes it a lot easier to sell," Mr. Kundert said in a recent interview in New York. He added that he hopes to offer the funds beginning in the fourth quarter.
Funds of funds are gaining favor among many banks, including U.S. Bancorp., which recently announced plans to launch a fund of funds, and Chase Manhattan Corp., which is considering a similar tack.
Geoffrey H. Bobroff, a mutual fund consultant in East Greenwich, R.I., said more banks are likely to create funds of funds because the Securities and Exchange Commission seems to have pulled back from its earlier objections to the approach.
"Many banks are thinking about whether they can achieve what they want to do with the asset classes they already have available," he added.
Mr. Kundert said Banc One said the six new 401(k) plan funds would vary in investment objectives from a very aggressive approach to one that focuses on preserving principal. The Columbus, Ohio-based banking company already manages $11.7 billion in its One Group of Funds complex.
The new funds will initially be sold only through 401(k) plans administered by Banc One. The banking company is looking at ways to market the funds to retail bank customers through its Banc One Securities brokerage unit.
"Banks are finding that there's a lot of interest from retirement plan sponsors for (funds of funds), especially with small plans," said Catherine S. McBreen, a consultant with Spectrem Group, San Francisco.
However, she cautioned banks not to expect too much from the fund strategy. Investors generally have not flocked to funds of funds, preferring instead to allocate their own assets across a number of funds.