Plenty of banks want to look more like securities firms. Now a securities firm in New York is taking steps to look more like a bank.

Waterhouse Investor Services has received regulatory approval to form a bank holding company and launch a bank. The plan awaits final clearance from the Justice Department.

The new unit, Waterhouse National Bank, White Plains, N.Y., will offer a wide range of products and services, including credit cards, insured deposit accounts, and retail loans.

These services are a natural extension of the securities firm's core business, Lawrence M. Waterhouse, the company's chairman, said in a statement.

Within a few years, they should contribute significantly to earnings, he added.

While a handful of securities firms own banks, most offer a more limited menu of services than Waterhouse is planning.

"It sounds like they are charting new ground," said Karen Shaw, president of the Institute for Strategy Development in Washington.

But observers said the expansion carries some risks.

It takes a great deal of expertise to operate a traditional bank, and Waterhouse's experience has been in selling stocks and clearing trades, said Eli Neusner, a consultant with Cerulli Associates, Boston.

"You have to wonder who they are going after with this move," Mr. Neusner said.

Waterhouse National Bank will also face stiff competition for market share in prosperous Westchester County, 30 miles north of New York. Several major banks, including Chase Manhattan, Chemical, and Citibank, dominate the field.

While it might have made more sense to buy a bank than to build one from scratch, Mr. Neusner said that the banks that are currently for sale may be "out of reach" for Waterhouse.

But Mr. Waterhouse said that "most banks have a lot of excess baggage," such as bad loans.

A veteran banker, Richard Neiman, has been named executive vice president and general counsel of Waterhouse Investor Services, effective July 11.

Mr. Neiman is currently director of regulatory advisory services at Price Waterhouse, which is unrelated to Waterhouse Securities.

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