Chase Manhattan Corp., following the lead of a handful of other banks, has plans to launch a series of mutual funds that would invest according to a customer's savings horizon.

The so-called lifestyle funds offer investors a choice of funds that automatically shift their assets from aggressive investments to less risky ones over time to boost return and minimize risk.

A senior Chase mutual fund executive, who requested anonymity, said the new funds would be set up as spoke funds, meaning that they would share management styles with existing Chase Vista Fund portfolios and feed assets into them.

Wells Fargo & Co. and BankAmerica Corp. have launched their own versions of lifestyle funds. Some experts say Chase's move is characteristic of the company's aggressive approach to developing its mutual fund capability.

"Chase is an experimenter, and so far they have been relatively successful with their funds," said Avi Nachmany, a partner at the New York consulting firm Strategic Insight. "This is a natural extension of what they have already been doing."

The Chase executive said it's too soon to say when the new funds will be launched. Chase completed its merger with Chemical Banking Corp. April 1, and the company is now merging Chemical's Hanover Funds into the Vista Funds.

Plans call for Chase to set up several "funds of funds," an approach whereby the new lifestyle funds would gain a higher level of diversification by investing in other mutual funds - in this case the Vista Funds. Oregon's U.S. Bancorp recently became the first bank to disclose plans to launch its own funds of funds.

Chase took the first step earlier this month, when Vista Funds and Hanover Funds shareholders approved a proposal - buried deep within a 54- page proxy statement - that gives Chase blanket permission to convert all its mutual funds to master-feeder arrangements, also known as hub-and- spoke.

Douglas Trott, president of Toronto-based Taddingstone Consulting Group, said the approval also gives Chase the flexibility to market its mutual funds under a different brand name and without loads - up-front or back- end sales charges.

Chase "probably wants to take these funds, and price them higher, brand them differently, and go to market directly with a high fee, but no-load complex," Mr. Trott said.

He added that by setting up a series of no-load spoke funds Chase could more easily market its funds to financial planners, and through mutual fund networks such as Charles Schwab & Co.'s OneSource, which offers only no- load funds.

While observers and former and current Chase executives say the idea of the company going no-load has been discussed, it is unlikely to go that route.

Geoffrey H. Bobroff, a mutual fund consultant in East Greenwich, R. I., said Chase will not risk alienating nonbank brokers - which contribute the most to Vista Fund sales.

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