Banking giant JPMorgan Chase & Co , a relative lightweight in retail wealth management, sees untapped riches residing in its own bank branches.

The New York banking giant is expanding a wealth management business that will target Chase banking customers with between $500,000 and $5 million in assets. The program, Chase Private Client, has opened 71 of what is expected to be 250 offices by December and roughly 1,000 offices in 2013.

Within five years, the bank says Chase Private Client could generate a $1 billion a year in pretax income -- if it can attract one in five branch customers to use their services.

At my old job, I used to come to work every day focused on acquiring new clients. At Chase, we have 2 million affluent customers -- they're already here, Chase Wealth Management Chief Executive Barry Sommers said in an interview.

Sommers until last year was CEO of JPMorgan Securities, a full-service brokerage formerly known as Bear Stearns Private Client Services. He is among a handful of Bear executives still in JPMorgan's leadership ranks three years after the big bank snapped up the troubled investment bank in 2008.

The bank began testing Chase Private Client in 2007, staffing retail branches with bankers and investment managers focused on offering red carpet treatment to the wealthy consumer and small business banking customers.

These customers also gain access to more elite JPMorgan portfolio management services. Sommers says the unit will refer customers needing trust, estate planning and other more complex transactions to other parts of the bank.

We want to offer our banking customers something we haven't in the past, helping us deepen our relationships with them, Sommers said.

Chase Private Client expects to have more than 400 bankers and 150 financial advisers, he said.

The program also may solve a challenge for JPMorgan, whose retail bank dominance in New York and other U.S. cities means the company cannot expand through takeovers or new branches without running afoul of competition regulators.

So in order to keep profits rising, Chase, like its rivals, want to a bigger share of its customer's wallet.

Sommers says Chase has 1.8 million consumer bank customers with between half a million to $5 million in assets. This group represents just 10 percent of Chase retail bank customers but holds $1.8 trillion, or 70 percent of their combined wealth.

The venture is another bite at the wealth management apple for JPMorgan Chase, where private bankers and private-wealth client advisers oversee $776 billion for multimillionaires.

The bank also runs JPMorgan Securities, a full-service brokerage boutique with more than 400 advisers, and Chase Investment Services, whose 3,000 brokers sell stocks, funds and RIAs to a broader population of less wealthy bank customers.

Lots of banks offer brokerage services through their branches. A recent report by consulting firm Cerulli Associates said U.S. banks last year employed nearly 15,000 brokers overseeing $483 billion in client assets.

Bank of America Corp last year launched Merrill Edge, an online brokerage targeting people with $100,000 to invest. Merrill Edge will double its ranks to 1,000 advisers this year and seek business from BofA branch clients.

Chase's rich customers, to be sure, have dozens of brokerages, banks and boutiques competing to sell them investment advice. Chase is counting on its rich depositors choosing to do more business with a bank they already know.

These are people with a strong relationship with the branch, who want some private banking capabilities, he said.

(Reporting by Joseph A. Giannone)