Part of buy-side giant Amvescap’s strategy in merging the mutual fund operations of its AIM and Invesco subsidiaries is to boost its foray into the separately managed account (SMA) business for high-net worth individuals, said Mark McMeans, president and COO of AIM Private Asset Management.

Beginning this summer, AIM wholesalers will manage mutual funds and SMAs from both units, McMeans said at a media briefing, sponsored by the Money Management Institute, an SMA trade group.

AIM has standardized its operations so that about 90% of its retail mutual funds now clear through FundServe, and AIM can more nimbly go after the wealth accumulated during the late 1990s tech boom, which have made SMAs the hottest sector in a post-tech bubble and bear market.

The effort is transforming AIM from a traditional, retail-oriented mutual fund company into a more institutional-styled operation. "SMAs are really the point by which the retail and the institutional worlds are beginning to merge and meld together, much the same way mutual funds did years ago when load and no-load funds came together," McMeans said.

Despite the consolidation, senior management empowered McMeans to hire an additional 35 staff and build a unit focused on SMAs from scratch. "The reason for this is there’s such commitment from the top to have a credible offering for separate accounts," McMeans said.

AIM Private Asset Management was launched in the first quarter of 2000, with the first account coming in toward the end of 2000. The unit has about $800 million in assets under management now across 3,670 accounts, following a growth spurt last year, McMeans said. The firm participates in 15 sponsored programs and has six portfolio styles.

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