Offering a retail cash management account, which links brokerage, banking, and credit, is becoming a necessity, many banking companies say.

Crestar Financial Corp., Richmond, Va., opened its first consolidated account on May 18. The Asset Management Account requires a balance of $15,000 in cash or investments and carries a $75 fee.

Crestar joined a long list of banks, including NationsBank Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., and Norwest Corp. of Minneapolis, that have recently begun to offer all-in-one accounts. Just this week Fleet Financial Group in Boston added to its Fleet One account the discount brokerage services of its Quick & Reilly unit and renamed the account Fleet One Gold.

At all of these banks, consolidated accounts-once pitched exclusively to the well-heeled-are aimed at retail investment customers. As more and more consumers invest, there is more demand for products that provide information on several accounts on one statement, bankers and observers said.

"It's going from a delight to a must," said W. Christopher Maxwell, principal of Maxwell Associates, a Rock Hall, Md., consulting firm that has assisted banks in establishing the accounts.

Merrill Lynch & Co.'s Cash Management Account, introduced in 1977, is the granddaddy of linked products. It sweeps customers' cash overnight into money market accounts or mutual funds.

While Merrill's offering was wildly successful, many banks held back from introducing similar accounts because of regulatory restrictions, extra costs, and concerns that deposits could shrink if customers were offered an easy way to shift money into investments.

"Any institution could have done it 15 years ago, but perhaps it couldn't produce a good business case," said Thomas D. Hogan, group executive vice president for Crestar Investment Group.

Creating one statement for all accounts is not easy. Closing dates on all accounts involved need to coincide, and a bank has to cull information from many different systems. In addition, the statements need to carry disclaimers citing that investments are not federally insured.

But according to Mr. Maxwell, competition is forcing banks to add the product to their mix.

"Enough people have them in the market, so there is a lot of noise," he said. "One client did it as a defensive move because their clients were being bombarded by ads by First Union."

He added that despite technology expenses, the consolidated accounts should be profitable after 18 months.

Charlotte, N.C.-based First Union began aggressively advertising its all-in-one CAP account early last year. First offered in 1985, it now has 312,000 customers, with an aggregate balance of $28.7 billion.

Crestar is initially pitching its Asset Management Account to its 60,000 investment customers.

"These accounts are available in other places, so it's a retention and growth strategy," Mr. Hogan said.

Since starting its Portfolio Management Account under a pilot in January, Norwest consolidated balances of more than $1 billion.

"Initially, we expect to do a lot of conversions (of existing accounts) because it has a lot of value," Melanie W. Locke, a senior product manager in Norwest corporate marketing, said. "In order to be successful enough, we have to have new accounts."

Though Norwest does not disclose how many of the 4,100 Portfolio Management Account holders are new, Ms. Locke said they are coming in.

The average balances are $114,000 among new customers and $362,371 for converted accounts. Also, existing customers have transferred an average $87,000 from other institutions to Norwest, the bank said.

Portfolio Management Account's annual fee of $99 is waived for customers with balances exceeding $250,000. A monthly fee of $15 is charged on balances that drop below the minimum $25,000.

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