Chase Manhattan Corp., seeking to attract do-it-yourself investors, is planning to launch a family of no-load mutual funds on a pilot basis.
The new Chase Funds, which are to be offered to retail customers starting in August, were created in January from a set of co-mingled funds managed by Chase Bank of Texas. Since then they have been sold through Chase Manhattan to institutional retirement clients, including 401(k) plans. Assets under management have swelled 55%, to $650 million.
Unlike the popular Chase Vista funds, which are distributed along with advice on fund selections, the planned retail shares of Chase Funds are for self-directed investors. The 10-year-old Chase Vista family, which carries sales charges, has $39 billion of assets under management.
"We're really targeting a different segment of the client base that otherwise may not have come into our product: people that expressly make their own decisions about investment purchases," said Sarah E. Jones, president of Chase Global Mutual Funds.
She added that while most investors still seek and pay for advice, "we didn't want to miss out on the other 35%."
Retail shares of Chase Funds, which will have a $2,500 minimum investment requirement, will initially be sold directly to existing customers of the bank, including private clients and offshore investors.
The 10 Chase Funds strategies are: money market, fixed income, short intermediate term, intermediate term, U.S. government securities, balanced, equity income, core equity, equity growth, and small capitalization.
Chase declined to disclose what its expectations are for retail sales. Ms. Jones said the bank also plans to offer Chase Funds through registered investment advisers and financial planners, for whom even the Chase Vista funds drop their loads. No advertising campaign is planned for the no-load pilot.
Similarly, NationsBank Corp., of Charlotte, and BankBoston Corp. sell proprietary funds without front-end sales charges.
Twenty-nine of the 103 bank proprietary fund families sold in the U.S. have no front-end charges, according to Lipper Analytical Services Inc., Summit, N.J.
Most banks have sales charges, or loads, on proprietary mutual funds because the customers they traditionally targeted have been willing to pay extra for advice on selecting investments.
Front-end loads provided initial revenues for some start-up fund operations at banks, noted Allen W. Croessmann, managing director of investment products and services at BankBoston.
"If the longer-term strategy is to emphasize your own asset management capability and make it easier for people to invest," then sales charges should get out of the picture, he added.
Increasingly, funds are bought without charges by consumers who, instead of paying for advice on individual fund selection, pay annual fees for financial planning, independent investment management, private banking relationships, and the like.
Citicorp eliminated sales charges on its mutual funds last year with the introduction of a new family of funds, CitiSelect. To attract investors, the bank planned to waive sales charges temporarily and apply them later. Yet Citi opted to keep the no-load status, which it then applied to an older family of mutual funds, CitiFunds, formerly known as Landmark Funds.
Some banks, including Fleet Financial Group Inc. and KeyCorp, offered no-load funds in the past but have since returned to applying sales charges.
Nevertheless, banks waive sales charges for trust, 401(k), and other large clients who already pay fees for investment management, said W. Christopher Maxwell, principal of Maxwell Associates, a Rock Hall, Md., consulting firm. He suggested that 80% of bank fund assets, not including money market funds, are sold with exclusions from fees for such shareholders.