The board of directors of the $396 million Pilgrim Bank and Thrift Fund is asking shareholders to approve changes to the fund’s investment mandate to allow it to invest in other financial service firms including investment management companies, brokerage firms, insurance companies and electronic trading networks.

Until now, it could only invest in banks and thrifts. If approved, the fund would change its name to the Pilgrim Financial Services Fund. The proposed change was included in a March 13 preliminary proxy statement.

The fund is managed by ING Pilgrim Investments of Scottsdale, Ariz.

The shift to a broader mandate will allow the fund to invest in the securities of other financial services companies, many of which have enjoyed the greatest growth in earnings in recent years and have been involved in acquisitions, the proxy said.

The Pilgrim board is also asking for shareholder approval to increase to 15 percent the proportion of the portfolio that can be invested in illiquid securities. That is the maximum percentage the SEC will permit. The Pilgrim fund had previously been allowed to invest up to 10 percent of holdings in illiquid securities.

The fund underwent a major change in October 1996 when it ceased trading as a closed-end fund and became an open-end fund.

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