Northern Trust Corp. is getting out of the futures brokerage business to concentrate on other operations.

The Chicago company will transfer its estimated 100 institutional customers to First Options of Chicago Inc., a unit of Spear, Leeds & Kellogg of New York.

No money will be exchanged, and Northern Trust said the move would have no effect on earnings because of the size of the business.

Northern Trust, with assets of $25.3 billion, said it wants to focus on its core businesses of trust, investment management, custodial services, and banking.

"Although Northern Futures Corp. has been a successful and profitable company and has brought Northern a number of valuable relationships, futures brokerage is no longer a fit with our long-term corporate strategy," said Northern Trust chairman William A. Osborn.

David R. Ganis, president of Northern Futures, said severance costs should be minimal because nearly all 49 employees affected would be offered jobs.

He said he will stay at Northern Trust in an undetermined capacity, but most others will be offered posts at First Options. Those who aren't will be offered jobs at Northern Trust, he said.

Northern Futures customers were notified Wednesday that their business will be taken over by First Options at the end of May unless they choose to go with another broker. Mr. Ganis said Northern Futures has about 100 significant customers, mostly foreign banks.

The futures brokerage business clears institutional customer transactions on the Chicago futures exchanges. Northern Trust got into the business in 1983 as part of its expansion into capital markets operations.

Mr. Ganis, who Northern recruited from PaineWebber Group in 1984 to build the unit, said the banking company has since changed course. "As time wore on, the bank dismantled that capital markets business," he said.

Northern Trust is now more focused on retail brokerage than investment banking. It took a step toward boosting its asset management business in February by hiring former Zurich Kemper Investments Inc. chief executive officer Stephen B. Timbers.

Northern Trust officials said Wednesday's announcement does not imply the company is in a divestiture mode. In fact, it has been on something of an acquisition spree. In January it completed its $50 million purchase of ANB Investment Management and Trust Co., a unit of First Chicago NBD Corp., and in February the company announced it would enter Colorado by buying $37 million-asset Trustbank Financial Corp., Denver, for about $15 million in cash.

As a result of the Northern Futures deal, its parent will drop its memberships on the Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Its partnership with Tullett & Tokyo Forex International Ltd. will be taken over by Spear, Leeds & Kellogg, Northern Trust said.

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