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Santander broadens investor base

A giant advertisement is being pasted on to a billboard sign along one of Mexico City's urban motorways. In bright red colours, the promotion offers to help change your life.

It is not a revolutionary diet on offer, or an invitation to a join a new religious sect. It is Banco Santander Mexicano's short-term mutual fund, which is now available to all of the bank's customers.

The bank's decision to make mutual funds available to smaller clients could change the way people save in Mexico, analysts say. Until now, mutual funds have been open only to institutional investors and wealthy Mexicans with Ps 1 million ($109,000) or more to invest.

A client needs a minimum of Ps30,000 to open one of the new portfolios. Banco Santander Mexicano, a unit of Spain's Banco Santander Central Hispano, is offering a return 3% higher than those of traditional savings accounts, which yield around 4.5%.

Investments in the new mutual fund have come in briskly so far. In the first three weeks the fund has been open, clients have put in Ps400 million in total, the bank says.

Mexico's two other leading financial groups, BBVA Bancomer and Banacci-Accival, are considering following Santander's lead into the lower income market, signalling a desire to tap further into the growing savings culture.

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