services company ING Group, is adding unit investment trusts to its product menu.
The Philadelphia-based company will take over the unit trust operation of a New York money manager and sell the products under the ING name. The money manager, Reich & Tang, has operated the unit investment trust group since 1978.
Terms of the transfer, which is to take effect in November, were not disclosed.
Unit trusts are portfolios of securities that, unlike mutual funds, include a limited number of equities and have a set time frame for investing.
The unit trust operation that ING is taking over has created about 500 trusts that invest in securities ranging from municipal bonds to equities, its sponsors said.
"We are enthusiastic" about the deal, said John Pileggi, president and chief executive of ING Mutual Funds Management. "Unit investment trusts offer a clear, focused way to invest in a fixed portfolio of securities over a pre-established time frame."
The business will mesh well with ING's mutual fund efforts, Mr. Pileggi said. "We view this initiative as having tremendous synergy."
ING plans to market the trusts through its existing channels, Mr. Pileggi said. "Our team will complement their product knowledge and operational expertise by adding dedicated wholesaling efforts."
The market for unit investment trusts is estimated to be a small percentage of the mutual fund business. Because of the products' limited scope, ING's deal received a lukewarm response from analysts.
"It probably doesn't hurt to have unit investment trusts as a parallel strategy to mutual funds," said Peter Starr, a consultant with Cerulli Associates of Boston. "But in and of itself, it probably isn't a market where you would want to expend a lot of capital."
That is why ING went with an existing operation rather than shoulder the cost of a start-up, analysts said.
Right now, unit investment trusts receive limited distribution through banks. One exception is Fifth Third Bancorp of Cincinnati, which got into the unit trust business through its 1998 acquisition of Ohio Co., a Cleveland broker-dealer. Ohio Co. had been in the unit trust business since the early 1990s.
ING Mutual Funds Management manages $780 million of U.S. mutual fund assets. The mutual funds group was launched in December 1998 to sell funds through a variety of channels, including banks.