TARGETS SIGHTED: KEY ASSET TAKES ITS INVESTMENTS SHOW ON THE ROAD

CLEVELAND -- Key Asset Management executives say they have pulled the disparate parts of the bank's investment management business into a cohesive operation.

Endowments and foundations will be the first group of new clients targeted.

"Our style of preservation of capital and risk aversion are perfect for that market," said Richard Buoncore, newly promoted to chief executive officer of Key Asset. He formerly was chief operating officer.

Mr. Buoncore replaces William Spears, who will continue as Key's chairman but has stepped down as CEO to work full-time with his high-net-worth clients at Spears, Benzak, Salomon and Farrell in New York.

Cleveland-based Key Corp. bought Spears, Benzak in 1995, and soon afterward tapped Mr. Spears to head up the asset management division, with Mr. Buoncore, then Spears' chief financial officer, serving as first lieutenant.

The men have traveled between New York and Cleveland for the past two years, pulling Key's disparate pieces together -- meshing the bank's internal asset management area with Key's subsidiary holdings, namely Spears, Benzak and Cleveland-based Society Asset Management.

Now the show is ready for consultants and institutional investors, executives say.

"The structure was so dysfunctional that no one understood how well we've done in performance. In the last two years, we've put a lot of time and effort into infrastructure planning, and this is a very different business than it was two years ago. Now Bill is pulling back to do what he really loves to do, and this is what I love to do," Mr. Buoncore said. He will move to Cleveland.

Key Asset manages $72 billion in total assets, of which 40% is from pension funds, and 4% from endowments and foundations. The bank has about $31 billion in institutional custody assets; and Key Asset also provides asset management for 11% of that $31 billion.

Although the division is only 2 years old, performance records go back five years, or 10 years, in the case of large-cap value.

Key has 139 portfolio managers nationwide and a group of 15 analysts.

As a former portfolio manager and analyst, Mr. Buoncore said he knows it is "perceived to be negative to be part of a bank asset management team, but we will turn that into a positive because this franchise has not yet been mined. The bank has given us a lot of autonomy to run this business, allowing unique and special programs. We have long-term plans to create a partnership-like structure for senior management teams."