olumbia Management Group, the asset management arm of FleetBoston Financial
, plans to offer the Columbia 529 Plan to individuals through financial advisors. Using its strong distribution network, Columbia Management expects the Plan to be offered through independent advisors and the largest brokerage firms.
This week, Liberty Funds Distributor, the sales organization for Columbia Management Group, will begin contacting major brokerages to place the Columbia 529 Plan on their approved product list, ahead of the sales launch slated for May. The State of Nevada sponsors the Columbia Plan.
The 529 Plan will offer investors a range of investment choices, including Liberty and Columbia products, and outside-managed funds from OppenheimerFunds and Marsico Capital as underlying funds. Investors will have the flexibility to choose from three investment approaches - age-based, asset allocation and customized investment portfolios.
The age-based portfolios will invest in pre-designed sub-portfolios based on the beneficiary's time horizon. As the beneficiary ages, the assets will be automatically reallocated to more conservative portfolios. The third approach will provide custom portfolios through which an investor or advisor can select any combination of the available underlying funds.
The Columbia 529 Plan will also allow investors to link with the Upromise loyalty service. This service generates additional savings through rebates earned from everyday purchases, and accumulated savings can be automatically transferred to the investor's Columbia 529 Plan account. The free loyalty service allows investors to earn rebates on their purchases at tens of thousands of retail locations, more than 15,000 grocery and drug stores, 130 online merchants and 8,500 restaurants.
"The Columbia 529 Plan will have three distinct advantages over competing plans," said Jim Tambone, Co-President, Liberty Funds Distributor. "We will offer highly flexible investment options, a multi-manager product offering featuring an attractive range of world-class funds, and the rewards from the Upromise affiliation."
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