Mellon Financial Corp.'s wealth management arm, which has entered seven new markets across the country this year, plans to keep up that sort of pace in years to come, by branching and acquisition.

So says Vicary M. Graham, who this week was named to lead the charge as national sales director of the unit, Mellon Private Asset Management.

Indeed, the creation of her job - Ms. Graham is the first person to hold it - signals a wish to keep expanding aggressively in wealth management, she said.

"In 2000 we grew into seven new markets, and I think that shows the kind of pace that we have in mind for the next several years," Ms. Graham said.

Those markets are Denver; Seattle; Greenwich, Conn.; Boca Raton, Fla.; Washington, D.C.; Cleveland; and Greenville, Del. All told, the unit has locations in nine states and the District of Columbia.

Ms. Graham, a senior vice president who had been a member of Mellon's mortgage banking unit, will be in charge of proposing locations for expansion. She will focus on specific affluent markets, she said.

The newest locations are good examples, Ms. Graham said: the Denver office, set up to serve the Colorado market; and the Seattle office, the former Trust Company of Washington, acquired in October.

"It is crucial to examine the demographics of an area and its customer base," Ms. Graham said. "Opportunities are based on having the right personnel or acquiring the right firms."

Craig Sutherland, Mellon Private Asset Management's national portfolio management manager, said the unit is eyeing further growth in Florida as well as California. Its current Florida offices are in Boca Raton, Aventura, and Miami; the California offices are in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Newport Beach.

Mr. Sutherland said the unit's biggest hurdle is a tight employment market. "In order for a location to flourish you need the right people with the right skill level and ability to foster and get relationship," he said. "There are just a limited number of people who bring these skills to the table. We have been successful with expansion thus far, but the right people are critical."

Mr. Sutherland said the unit expects to complete a Florida wealth management business acquisition in the first half of 2001.

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