MIAMI - Having put the pain of a pervasive trading scandal behind it, Alliance Capital Management and its mutual fund subsidiary Alliance Bernstein are focused on carving out market share and winning new clients by retooling their distribution strategy.
"We're no longer known for hot product and high fees," said Bob Hausler, director of marketing communication at Alliance Bernstein, speaking at a recent conference sponsored by the National Investment Company Services Association "We're a different firm than we were 14 months ago."
Hausler told attendees that there has been significant turnover at the firm, some as a direct result of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's investigation, others as collateral damage. The reshuffling of its executive staff has forged a new culture at the firm, he said, one that is "a lot more strategically focused."
In December 2003, Alliance agreed to a $600 million settlement with state and federal regulators to settle allegations that it permitted preferred clients to engage in market timing in a number of its funds. The penalty included a 20% reduction in advisory fees over a five-year period and $250 million in restitution. The firm was also ordered to add independent directors to its board.
"We're looking to narrow and deepen our focus [as we] evaluate the different channels," Hausler said. As a result, the firm is hiring a lot of new people, including fund wholesalers, to help spread its new message.
In the post-scandal environment, the company has decided to devote more resources to marketing than sales. While he acknowledged that the firm needs both facets to be successful, he said it was important to rely less on its "selling machine" to penetrate the market.
Alliance is also investing heavily in technology to upgrade its adviser Web sites and get wholesalers better equipment in the field. "We have to figure out a way to use technology better to stay competitive," he said.