A small Maine bank hopes the purchase of an out-of-town investment boutique will help its own investment unit shed its stodgy trust-company image.

Last week Pemaquid Advisors, a division of the $410 million-asset First National Bank of Damariscotta in southeastern Maine, bought White Pine Asset Management of Portland, about an hour's drive away.

F. Stephen Ward, Pemaquid's managing principal, said White Pine will help Pemaquid develop a brand identity separate from First National's. (For one thing, the old White Pine office in Portland is Pemaquid's first outside a bank branch.) That, in turn, should help it attract more of the area's affluent, who are coming to include many retirees from other regions, Mr. Ward said.

The price was not disclosed; Mr. Ward would say only that no cash was involved. White Pine and Pemaquid each had three principals and similar totals of assets under management.

Pemaquid bought White Pine from Maine Bank and Trust, which was itself bought by Burlington, Vermont's Chittenden Corp. in April. White Pine's principals wanted their operation to grow but did not want it to become part of Chittenden, said one of them, William M. Hunter 2d, now a Pemaquid principal.

Nor did it want to pay the price of doing so as an independent, he said. As an independent it would have had to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission as an investment adviser and bear extensive new costs, Mr. Hunter said, but a bank unit need not do so.

Meanwhile, Pemaquid had already begun a transformation from an old-fashioned trust services provider into a wealth management firm, the executives said. "We want to operate Pemaquid more like an investment management firm than a bank trust department," Mr. Ward said.

Mr. Hunter said trust departments and trust companies are widely viewed as the province of the dead or, at the very least, as having a dull approach to investing. That image keeps many investors from using trust companies for their assets, he said.

Other large bank-affiliated wealth managers active in northern New England, such as FleetBoston and Key Bank - also offer separate-account management, and have much more marketing muscle.

But a Pemaquid adviser can create individual portfolios to match a client's investment needs, while larger companies generally rely on standard investment portfolios created by advisers who never meet the clients who will use them, Mr. Hunter said. And Pemaquid's size gives it the advantage of more personal service, he said.

Mr. Ward said that Pemaquid's separate-account portfolios generally include 30 to 50 securities each. Account minimums are $250,000, though $500,000 would be an ideal account size, he said. Key's account minimum is $500,000, and Fleet's $1 million.

White Pine was merged into Pemaquid, which now has 12 investment professionals and manages $250 million of assets for high-net-worth clients. Mr. Hunter said he hopes to double that figure within three years.

First National Bank is owned by First National Lincoln Corp., also in Damariscotta.

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