Sanwa Bank California, a latecomer to the proprietary mutual fund game, last month began offering an asset allocation account to attract customers.
Active Asset wraps around various combinations of Sanwa's four proprietary Eureka mutual funds, along with 11 funds from Dreyfus Corp., a unit of Mellon Bank Corp. The account asks for a minimum investment of $25,000.
Sanwa, an $8.1 billion-asset subsidiary of Osaka, Japan-based Sanwa Bank Ltd., opened proprietary retail funds last month. Sanwa executives hope the asset allocation account will speed things along.
Eureka Funds are expected to make up 40% to 50% of U.S. mutual fund sales at Sanwa in three to five years, according to Michael Boulden, vice president in charge of investment services. Last year the Los Angeles-based bank sold about $55 million of U.S. funds from Franklin Resources, MFS Investment Management, OppenheimerFunds, Putnam Investments, and Van Kampen American Capital. Loose sales of Eureka Funds are expected to be less than packaged sales of the funds within the Active Asset wrap account.
"The asset allocation product is probably going to be the dominant seller of the two," Mr. Boulden said. "As the program grows, that will become probably our largest single product sale."
Investors receive advice on different no-load mutual funds in a wrap account.
Annual advisory fees and expense ratios on the accounts average about 2.2% of net asset value, according to Cerulli Associates, a fund research firm in Boston.
Mutual fund wrap programs at banks are often limited to proprietary funds. Besides Sanwa, other exceptions are found at Cleveland-based KeyCorp and San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co.
Several banks, including Bank of New York Corp. and Kansas City, Mo.- based Commerce Bancshares, have asset allocation accounts that wrap around proprietary funds only.
"I have to question making only proprietary funds available through those programs," said Eli Neusner, a senior consultant at San Francisco- based Spectrem Group.
He added that though it is easier and less costly for banks to operate wrap accounts with one family of funds, "it's a harder story to sell to prospective clients."
Many wrap accounts are becoming more inclusive. Last month Fidelity Investments expanded a wrap account, Portfolio Advisory Services, to include non-Fidelity funds.
Salomon Smith Barney's Track wrap account is the largest, with $11 billion of assets under management. Its Track program started in 1991 with an account holding Smith Barney funds, but the brokerage came out with another wrap account 18 months ago that includes 36 other fund companies.
Clients can transfer to the Track account mutual funds that they bought from other companies included in the program, including American Century, Janus, and Scudder.
"We know ... many investors own no-load mutual funds from other relationships," said Anne Gray, Track's director. "One of the reasons the Track program is successful is because of ongoing advice we offer clients."
Sanwa is also targeting clients who have mutual funds elsewhere-though they would have to sell the shares and then buy Eureka and Dreyfus funds-or have fresh cash on hand from a pension distribution or inheritance.
"What we're doing is offering professional investment management to the masses," said Richard Weiss, chief investment officer of Sanwa.
The Eureka Funds were created from a conversion of $600,000 of assets in common trust funds. The bank manages about $1.4 billion in separate accounts for institutional investors and wealthy clients.