Union Bank of California, for the first time, is seeking to sell its mutual funds directly to consumers outside the bank. And it's waiving the funds' up-front sales fee to do so.

The bank began advertising its fund family three weeks ago in Chicago, St. Louis, several Florida cities, and the New York City suburbs, said R. Gregory Knopf, senior vice president and managing director of the San Francisco-based bank's mutual fund division. The ads tout the funds' performance and note that the equity fund got five stars, the highest rating, from mutual fund rating agency Morningstar Inc.

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