Following several years of furious spending on acquisitions, First Union is concentrating on “expense management and expense control” in 2001, President and CEO Ken Thompson told analysts Tuesday during a conference held by Credit Suisse First Boston in Phoenix.

Thompson said the firm’s Capital Management Group, which includes brokerage, banking and asset management operations, will concentrate on “the middle market niche, rather than expansion” in the near future.

He outlined the division's growth during the last six years: Broker-managed client assets have grown at a combined annual growth rate of 43% to $205 billion in 2000, Thompson said. Mutual fund assets have grown 46% during the last six years to $85 billion in 2000, and CAP asset management accounts have grown 38% to $61 billion in 2000, he said.

Acquisitions have also grown First Union’s retail sales force. The firm employed 7,459 registered reps at the end of 2000, up from 6,589 brokers in 1999.

Thomson also described a number of belt-tightening measures the firm has taken, including restrictions on management stock awards and tying manager paychecks more closely to performance. And he bragged about the benefits of the firm’s multiple distribution channels, including its ability to offer investment services to clients both inside its bank branches and in brokerage offices.

“We have two chances to capture client assets,” he said.

First Union’s distribution network includes 2,193 bank offices, 375 brokerage branches, 3,772 cash machines along the East Coast and 11 telephone sales centers. “We are not the old First Union,” he said.

Thompson’s presentation is available on the firm’s Web site for investors,