National City Corp. has launched a registered investment adviser to serve institutional investors and retirement plan sponsors.

National City Investment Management Co., which registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in August, manages about $22 billion of assets. Though a subsidiary of $88 billion-asset National City, the investment unit is structured as an independent company, with its own profit-and-loss statement.

Robert M. Leggett, president of National City Investment Management, said he is hoping that the unit's status as a registered investment adviser, or RIA, will help it market its services to retirement plan sponsors and to consultants to institutional investors.

"If you're not a RIA, then you're viewed as having much less of a commitment to the business," he said.

Observers agreed. Institutional investors like to feel that investment managers are focused on their needs-and not the needs of different types of bank clients. They also do not want their managers to be influenced by bank budgets.

National City is "trying to filter out all these factors that impact the investment management," said Norman R. Lubin, chief executive of FMS Consulting, Blue Bell, Pa.

National City Investment Management is a product of the $7.7 billion merger of National City in Cleveland with First of America Bank Corp., Kalamazoo, Mich., in March. The investment unit combines First of America Investment Corp., an existing registered investment adviser, with National City Asset Management Group.

The adviser manages the investments of two proprietary mutual fund families, Armada from National City and Parkstone from First of America. Account minimums for institutions are $10 million.

Though the two complexes' fixed income, money market, and international equity investments overlapped, they had different equity styles. National City had large-cap growth and value, small-cap value, and indexed investments; First of America had small- and mid-cap growth.

Five of First of America's investment advisers-about half of them-moved to Cleveland from the Kalamazoo office, including Mark Kumnerer, director of fixed income. Account managers remain in Kalamazoo, Birmingham, Mich., and Peoria, Ill.

The new subsidiary provides an incentive compensation package, primarily for 30 portfolio managers and analysts, and a profit sharing program for all 80 employees.

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