With the completion last week of its deal for Ohio Co., Fifth Third Bancorp gained considerable heft in both asset management and sales distribution.

The regional broker-dealer, based in Columbus, Ohio, brings 200 retail brokers and 80,000 clients to Fifth Third's considerably smaller brokerage effort.

Fifth Third-The Ohio Co., as the merged operation will be known, now boasts 250 retail brokers, serving 120,000 brokerage accounts with about $7 billion of assets, said Scott N. Degerberg, a bank vice president.

The majority of Ohio Co. brokers will remain in their current offices, though Fifth Third might put some in banking centers, Mr. Degerberg said. The bank already has its own Series 7 brokers in certain branches but will look to fill gaps where necessary, he said.

Fifth Third and Ohio Co. overlap in Ohio, Indiana, and Florida. Ohio Co., however, brings the bank a presence in Michigan and West Virginia.

The bank will continue its full-service brokerage approach and has no plans to venture into discount territory, Mr. Degerberg said. "We really think that our customers are looking at the full-service model."

In investment management, the bank nets $2 billion of assets through the acquisition, divided equally between trust accounts and Ohio Co.'s Cardinal Funds.

Four of the Cardinal Funds will be merged into Fifth Third's Fountain Square complex, pending shareholder approval, said Mr. Degerberg. The assets include a mix of equity, fixed-income, and money market funds, he said.

The Cardinal Fund, a large-cap growth fund, will remain independent and be renamed the Fountain Square Cardinal Fund. The Cardinal Tax-Exempt Money Market Fund will also take the Fountain Square moniker. Once the fund merger is complete, the Fountain Square family would boast 16 funds, with $4.4 billion of assets.

Mr. Degerberg said that there are no immediate plans to expand the mutual fund complex.

The bank recently gained section 20 Tier 2 underwriting capabilities from the Federal Reserve, giving it the ability to underwrite equities and further enhancing its product lineup, Mr. Degerberg said.

Timothy W. Willi, an equity analyst at A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc., St. Louis, said that, though it is "small and relatively low-risk," Fifth Third's acquisition of Ohio Co. is really a reflection of the banking industry's desire to broaden asset management and brokerage capabilities. "Banks are becoming more diversified financial services providers," he said.

No price was disclosed for the deal, but analysts have said Fifth Third probably paid less than $100 million for the broker-dealer.

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