Shifting emphasis at mutual fund distributors

The rising importance of fund selection units at broker/dealers (B/Ds) was reflected in the June 23 NICSA General Membership Meeting‘s panel on “The Distribution Road Ahead and Back,” chaired by Marty Griffin, director of sales operations for Pioneer Funds Distributor.

Mutual fund distributors are ramping up their efforts to satisfy those units. For example, two-and-a-half years ago MFS Fund Distributors set up an Advisory Resources Group that’s dedicated to servicing analyst teams performing due diligence at B/Ds, said Jim Jessee, president, MFS Fund Distributors. Jessee said, it used to be that reps had the most point-of-sale influence. But now, increasingly, that role is offloaded to the analytic group in the home office.

Eaton Vance is taking an approach similar to that of MFS, said Matt Witkos, president, Eaton Vance Distributors. Those B/D analyst teams are increasing in influence, he added.

Even smaller firms like Pax World Management Corp. are feeling the change. There’s more of a need for communication through the home office, said Keith Bernard, senior vice president.

These mutual fund distribution executives’ employee requirements are changing, too. Analytical skills are more important than 10 years ago. Jessee is hiring more people with the CIMA or CFP credential. He has even hired a couple with the CFA credential, “though I’m not sure how many have the stamina to tackle that one.”