OppenheimerFunds is setting its sights on the growing market for managing retirement assets for smaller companies.

The fund firm plans to introduce a retirement program specifically for small and midsize businesses. It is designed with a flexibility that would allow banks to customize it to their clients.

The new program, Pinnacle Ascender, is designed for firms with 49 people or fewer, said John Stoma, senior vice president and director of retirement services at OppenheimerFunds in New York. The firm is pursuing this market because the market for retirement services for larger firms is slowing, while services for smaller firms appear to be poised for significant growth, he said.

Three years ago the company started Pinnacle, a "full-service turn-key" retirement program for companies with 100 employees or more. That program now runs 1,500 retirement plans and manages assets close to $1 billion, Mr. Stoma said.

Pinnacle is also designed to give banks flexibility in marketing and designing their own products to complement the program - such as providing subadvisory services or adding their own proprietary funds to those offered by Oppenheimer, Mr. Stoma said.

He declined to name any banks that have shown interest in Pinnacle Ascender, but said that "an impressive array" of them has lined up to consider it.

Pinnacle Ascender will be available June 1.

Several banks and fund company executives said that it is difficult to make smaller retirement plans into profitable accounts, and that they had no plans to pursue such accounts.

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