Not all bank funds are created equal--even when they look remarkably similar. That's the word from John Hancock Funds of Boston, adviser to the closed-end $727.6 million John Hancock Bank and Thrift Opportunity Fund and the more veteran open-end John Hancock Regional Bank Fund, with $2.3 billion in assets.

In a recently filed proxy statement for the closed-end fund, Hancock included a shareholder-submitted proposal that asks investors to vote to merge the closed-end fund, which debuted in August 1994 into the similar, but not identical, open-end regional bank fund, which launched nine years earlier in October 1985.

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