The merger of Minneapolis-based First Bank System with Portland, Ore.-based U.S. Bancorp has combined two mutual fund families under the banner of First Asset Management. The combined money management operation advises about $53 billion in assets, including $17.5 billion in public mutual funds.
But U.S. Bancorp's money management arm, known until Aug. 1 as Qualivest Capital Management, lost a key fund manager when Dale Benson left to form his own firm.
Mr. Benson originated Qualivest's successful small-cap equity fund, which returned 28.5%, on an annualized basis, for the two years ended June 30.
"They tried hard to keep me and offered me a very competitive package," said Mr. Benson.
But he and colleague Mark Cooper decided to strike out on their own. The new firm, Benson Associates, opened its doors Aug. 1 with about $140 million in money from clients Mr. Benson retained from his work at Qualivest. Most of that is institutional money.
Qualivest had a family of 13 funds, 10 of which are being folded into parallel First American funds.
The other three - a tax-free money market fund, a small-cap value fund and an international index fund - are additions.
First Bank's First American family now has 30 public mutual funds, and will gain a 31st - a micro-cap fund - if Qualivest shareholders give final approval to the deal this fall, said Tim Leach, First Asset's Northwest manager of institutional financial services.