NEW YORK - Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. said Thursday that James F. Higgins would take the newly created position of chairman of its private client service group at the end of August.

Mr. Higgins, currently the president and chief operating officer of the unit, has also been elected to the board of directors of MSDW Funds, the company's principal asset management business, Morgan Stanley said.

John H. Schaefer, 48, an executive vice president and chief strategic and administrative officer, will succeed Mr. Higgins as the unit's president and chief operating officer.

Mr. Higgins, 52, was president and COO of Dean Witter Securities for nine years before it merged with Morgan Stanley in 1997. He joined Dean Witter in 1971 as a broker.

Mr. Schaefer, 48, co-chairs the company's e-commerce steering committee. Before the merger with Morgan Stanley, he was executive vice president and director of corporate finance at Dean Witter.

Both will report to Philip J. Purcell, chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

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