Wachovia Corp. is the latest bank to look for a middle ground between small-time investors and wealthy trust clients.

The Winston-Salem, N.C.-based banking company is putting the finishing touches on an asset allocation program that it plans to offer early next year. Asset allocation products package several mutual funds together and charge a single, bundled annual management or advisory fee.

The yet-to-be-named account will wrap around Wachovia's proprietary Biltmore Funds as well as a few managed by Federated Investors.

Wachovia executives are designing it for young professionals with $100,000 to $500,000 in investable assets. The bank will ask for a minimum investment of $50,000.

"They are the prime prospects for investment managers," said senior vice president R. Edward Bowling, product manager of the Biltmore Funds.

The new account will help Wachovia compete for the emerging affluent with other banks, mutual fund companies, brokerages, insurance companies, and financial planners, but is limited to the Southeast, Mr. Bowling said. The accounts will be sold by 150 Wachovia brokers across 450 branches.

"The asset allocation product grew more out of our desire to create a service for our existing customers, rather than go ahead and target investors nationwide," he said.

Retail investors are in the minority at Wachovia Asset Management, where trust clients with larger accounts are the primary sources of business.

The Biltmore Funds have a total of $3.5 billion in assets under management, which makes up approximately 15% of Wachovia Asset Management's overall business.

Wachovia's new product is not unique in its region. Charlotte-based NationsBank Corp. introduced its asset allocation product, three mutual funds dubbed LifeGoal, in October. LifeGoal funds have a $1,000 minimum investment.

But LifeGoal is a "handoffs" product designed for "novice" investors, said Catherine F. Ellsworth, a senior consultant in Spectrem Group's New York office. Programs like Wachovia's, meanwhile, tend to involve more affluent clients in the investment process.

Ms. Ellsworth, who said Wachovia is a Spectrem client, said asset allocation programs that mix proprietary and outside mutual funds are more successful than proprietary asset allocation funds.

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