Swiss Bank Corp., known in this country for its high-end investment management, has launched its first retail proprietary mutual fund family.

For as little as $1,000, an investor can purchase shares of the SwissKey Funds, which are managed by the bank's Chicago-based investment subsidiary, Brinson Partners Inc.

The funds - which are being sold without a sales charge - are the retail version of the bank's Brinson Funds, which require a $100,000 minimum investment.

The Basel-based banking company registered six SwissKey funds with the Securities and Exchange Commission last summer and began marketing the portfolios last month.

Direct mailings to potential investors contained a February prospectus, marketing literature, a cassette tape, and a Swiss army knife embossed with the SwissKey insignia.

But the bank is reticent about discussing its new funds, which had $30.8 million under management as of Dec. 31.

Most of those assets were in the SwissKey Global Equity fund, which hold positions in both U.S. and foreign stocks.

Consultants said that the issuance of the retail funds is not a costly undertaking, because the bank already offers its own mutual funds.

"It's a way of reaching new investors without a heck of a lot of expense," said Gary R. Cohn, president of U.S. Datatron Inc., a financial services research firm in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. "The bank is not going to have to sell itself very hard."

Mr. Cohn added that the bank has set a low investment minimum for the new funds in hopes of garnering more assets. "They're going after the younger investor, the true yuppie group," he said.

While the SwissKey funds may not have taken the mutual fund business by storm, their very existence has aroused intrigue.

"This represents a very interesting alternative to Fidelity, Vanguard, and Putnam in the world of mutual fund investing," said Les Dinkin, principal of NBW Consulting Group Inc. in Westport, Conn.

"Investing with these (funds) has a level of cache for some people," he added, comparing it to the snob appeal carried by a platinum credit card.

Swiss Bank, a $250 billion-asset institution, has traditionally focused on wealthy clients. Its private banking account minimum is $200,000, and its individually managed account minimum is $1 million.

Last year it acquired Brinson Partners, a Chicago-based investment firm that manages $53 billion for institutional clients, such as pension funds.

The bank has set up a hot line to promote the SwissKey funds, which include the Global Fund, Global Equity Fund, Global Bond Fund, U.S. Balanced Fund, U.S. Equity Fund, U.S. Bond Fund, and Non-U.S. Equity Fund.

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