SEI Investment Services has added a PC-based financial planning tool to help banks sell both proprietary mutual funds and SEI's new family of retail fund products.

A total of 20 banks have signed up to use the product, called Assist, as part of their investment product marketing efforts. In that group are Wells Fargo Corp., San Francisco, Philadelphia's CoreStates Financial Corp., and Frost National Bank, San Antonio. The system was tested at Fleet Bank and First Hawaiian Bank for a year.

Assist can be used on personal computers or laptops. It helps a broker or financial planner analyze customer profiles and goals, suggests investment strategies, creates documents to close a sale, and provides record keeping for sales and client contacts.

Company officials claim Assist will "streamline the investment process for packaged investment products."

"The real key is that this is a PC-based tool to allow banks to sell mutual funds at the branch level," said Richard Lieb, president of Wayne, Pa.-based SEI. "It takes a client through all the issues involved in a mutual fund purchase, such as investment goals, asset allocation, and building a model portfolio."

The product also makes full use of Windows' graphical user interface. "That is what's impressive," Mr. Lieb noted. "You're not looking at screens of numbers."

The program will enable banks to compete with mutual fund companies and brokerage firms in the consumer marketplace "by increasing the investment planning capabilities of their sales forces," Mr. Lieb added.

During a typical conversation with a prospective customer, the sales representative will use Assist to assess the customer's investment objectives, and then show the projected performance of different investment mixes over a given period of time. The software also provides the variability and risk inherent in a given investment, based on past performance.

System Can Use a Variety of Products

Assist can use any mix of investment products that are installed on the system. This might typically include a bank's proprietary funds distributed by SEI, SEI's institutional mutual funds, or the company's ProVantage funds, a family of retail funds that was introduced last week.

Currently, the mix of products residing on the system can only be updated by SEI's support staff. The company, however, plans to market a tool kit in the near future that will enable that task to be handled by the user.

In addition to the banks already using it, Assist also has caught the attention of at least one other party. Microsoft Corp. has nominated Assist for Computerworld magazine's Smithsonian award. The awards are given to outstanding software products in a number of different categories. Assist was nominated for best product in the finance and insurance industries.

SEI is a leading distributor, administrator, and marketer of bank proprietary mutual funds, with $38 billion of assets.

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