GE Financial Assurance, the financial services arm of General Electric Co., is planning a major expansion of its retail mutual fund business.

The company plans to introduce 13 new funds, bringing the total number of funds in the GE Fund family to 25. The first new fund to be launched will be the GE Small-Cap Value Equity Fund, which will be managed by GE Investment Management and subadvised by Palisade Capital Management LLC.

Twelve other funds will be introduced by the end of 1999. They will include a high yield bond fund, a mid-cap value fund, a European fund and an international small-cap-fund, a spokesperson said.

GE will also create new retail classes of shares of its Lifestyle Funds, which are funds of funds. The Lifestyle Funds have just been available to institutional investors.

Both print and television advertising has begun to promote the GE Financial Assurance brand. The ads have appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" and other programs. They mention financial products that GE Financial Assurance offers like insurance and mutual funds, but do not specifically mention the new funds. Print ads will appear in personal finance publications. Advertising for at least the small cap value-equity fund will appear in trade publications. The company did not disclose how much it is spending on advertising.

GE Financial Assurance has also revised its sales literature to include the new funds, the GE corporate website has been enhanced to focus more on the GE Funds ( and the company plans to hire additional salespeople. GE distributes its funds through brokers, financial planners and banks.

GE is hoping that Palisade Capital Management, which manages the GE pension fund, will attract brokers who know of its reputation as an institutional money manager, to the new small-cap fund. Until now, Palisade has only managed institutional money.

The company says the new funds are intended to offer intermediaries more choices for their clients within one fund family. Currently, the family includes five growth equity funds, two growth and income funds, four income funds and one money market fund.

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