Forum Financial Group, a mutual fund administrator, accountant, and distributor, is expanding into the custody business.

Forum, based in Portland, Maine, said Dec. 16 that it has received approval from the Maine Bureau of Banking to open Forum Trust LLC, a nondepository trust company. Forum also has transfer agency and investment management businesses.

"It's a logical extension of services that we provide to our mutual fund clients," said Dana Lukens, corporate counsel at Forum.

Forum Trust will hire an established custodian to handle the securities processing. That way its clients, which do not have the buying power of the biggest fund companies, can access a global custodian at a competitive price, Mr. Lukens said.

Forum works with 12 mutual fund families. The largest is the Norwest Advantage family, the proprietary funds of Norwest Corp., which merged with Wells Fargo & Co. on Nov. 2.

Forum Trust is one of three nondepository trust companies chartered by the state this year, said H. Donald DeMatteis, Maine's superintendent of banking. The charter did not exist until Maine's Legislature modernized its banking code in 1997, he said.

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