In the past year, American Express’s AXP fund line has gone through a largely silent evolution that will continue into the new year, with plans calling for product expansion and additional investment professionals. The evolution has been paralleled by the development of the Partners Funds, a line of sub-advised funds.

Last January, when Andrew Washburn joined the firm as VP, director of marketing for American Express Funds, he brought with him a "product line rationalization," he said. "What we’re trying to do is create more discipline around the management of these funds. We’re trying to get them to be differentiated within their categories from each other and from our competitors and we’re trying to make sure that these funds are managed to style-specific benchmarks," Washburn said. The funds now have tighter risk controls and clearer marketing positions to help advisers match products with clients, he said.

While the concept of reevaluation originated with Washburn, he said that CIO Ted Truscott, who joined the firm in September, is critical to the process."He’s quickly making assessments about the competencies that we have on the investment side and I think looking to aggressively add to talent," said Washburn. "We’re really relying on him to help build that competency out with us so we can begin to offer some additional products."

Washburn identified two key areas where American Express needs more investment talent: small cap and value. Although the firm last year hired Prudential vet Warren Spitz to manage a pair of value funds and has him slated to head up a third early next year, American Express would like to offer more value funds.

In 2002, also look to see development in the international and fixed income areas, Washburn said. In addition, the firm will be building out its new Partners line, likely doubling the roster from six to 12 by the end of next year.

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