John Nuveen & Co. has launched three unit investment trusts that will be sold in part through banks.

They're part of a push by the Chicago company into equity, Treasury, and insured corporate unit trusts. The firm's stronghold is municipal bond unit trusts, which it pioneered in 1961.

Unit investment trusts are similar to mutual funds but differ in three ways: The portfolio is set up with a fixed number of units, the portfolio's investments do not change, and the units have a fixed life span.

Nuveen executives said unit investment trusts typically sell well at bank trust departments, as their customers are happy with long-term, conservative investments.

Nuveen's three new unit investment trusts are:

The Nuveen-Standard & Poor's Quality Equity Portfolio Trust, a 13-1/2 month rolling trust made up of 15 "carefully screened" companies. Minimum investment: $3,000. Load: 2.75% the first year, 1.75% thereafter.

The Nuveen U.S. Treasury Trust, made up of five bonds with maturity dates "laddered" every six months. The trust comes with two options for length: 2.75 years, with a yield of 5.3% to 5.4%, or 5.25 years, with a yield of 5.95% to 6.05%. Minimum investment: $5,000. Load: 1.75%.

Nuveen Insured Corporate Trust, composed of long-term utility and telephone company bonds held up to 30 years. Minimum investment: $5,000. Load: 4.9%.

The manager of unit trust development, Robert K. Burke, joined Nuveen in Dec. 1996 after breaking away from Everen Securities Inc., Chicago, where he ran a similar department. Four employees defected with him to Nuveen, he said.

Nuveen has $50.3 billion of assets under management-$13.5 billion in unit investment trusts and $36.8 billion in mutual funds.

For all its products, Nuveen's largest bank-distributors are Great Western Financial Corp., Citibank, Chase Manhattan Corp., and BankAmerica Corp.

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