Curian, Putnam Investments and John Hancock Funds have won top honors in the 10th Annual NOVA Awards, which honor outstanding leadership and achievement in mutual fund operations and marketing.

The awards program is produced by Money Management Executive in conjunction with co-sponsor NICSA.

Nominations were screened in July and August, by a panel of judges led by NICSA board member George Gorman and Money Management Executive editor Hung Tran.

Winners were selected in September and are to be honored this Thursday in Boston at NICSA's General Membership Meeting.

Here they are.

Back Office Efficiencies:

Putnam Mutual Fund Shareholder Services (Platinum)

Huntington Funds & Asset Services (Gold)

The Mutual Fund Shareholder Services division of Putnam Investments has developed and implemented an innovative approach to improving transaction processing accuracy and in turn, efficiency, by identifying the root cause of transaction processing errors and individual performance management.

Putnam's approach has reduced the instances of errors that affect its customers. Putnam's overall accuracy (as measured by National Quality Review) of 96.4% in 2008 had improved to 97.9% by 2011. More recent results show continued momentum, with Putnam achieving 98.5% and 98.8% overall accuracy respectively for the first two quarters of 2012.

Last September, the firm also became the first mutual fund company to enable shareholders to access its Web content simply by scanning a code on their quarterly statements with a smart phone.

Over the past 12 months, an $8 million technology capital commitment made by gold award winner Huntington Funds' and its sub-administrator, Huntington Asset Services, has resulted in an array of state-of-the-art systems and enhanced productivity and procedures, establishing them as a leader in providing oversight, critical processes and services for their investment products.

For example: The firm's post-trade compliance system mitigates risk regarding regulatory requirements and automates analysis and reporting to advisors for greater timeliness and efficiency.

Huntington's commitment to its technology and process review goal has resulted in its ability to provide daily returns; automated delivery of any period of performance for the fund and related benchmarks; increased frequency and accuracy of detailed post-trade compliance reviews; and earlier identification of potential tax issues related to investments in foreign issuers among other achievements.

Visionary Leadership:

Michael Bell, Curian (Platinum)

Tom Carter, ALPS (Gold)

Platinum award winner Michael Bell assumed the position of president and CEO of Curian in 2005-two years after its inception-and oversees the company's strategic direction.

His commitment to innovative investment strategies has driven the steady growth and success of Curian. Starting with just 71 employees, Curian now employs more than 250, and has AUM of $8.2 billion as of March 2012.

One of his most significant achievements is creating operational working groups, under the rubric Advisor Excellence, that regularly evaluate and enhance Curian's product offerings, technology capabilities and practice management services.

Under Bell, Curian has launched significant upgrades to its website, technology and communications capabilities, and has expanded its reach into new channels-the registered investment advisor (RIA) channel and institutional markets. Bell has also instituted regular advisor summits to gain insight into the issues facing financial representatives, allowing Curian to tailor programs and platforms to truly meet their needs. Since joining ALPS in 1994, gold award winner Tom Carter has been an integral part of the firm's success in exchange-traded funds, closed-end funds, and active distribution services.

Most recently, he was the driving force in creating the firm's unique multi-boutique platform of alternative investment products.

Since launching nine "Country Baskets" in 1994, ALPS now provides distribution services for ETF families which represent $6.8 billion in assets. Since entering the asset management business in 2006, ALPS Advisors has grown its assets under management to more than $5 billion across mutual funds, ETFs, and closed-end funds, in a bear market.

Creativity in Marketing:

Curian (Platinum)

Franklin Templeton (Gold)

Through its digital enhancements, advisor meetings and customizable clientfacing materials, Curian is dedicated to providing advisors with the tools and resources needed to achieve excellence, so clients, in turn, can achieve success. In order to help advisors differentiate themselves in the marketplace, Curian offers advisors a comprehensive suite of tools to help articulate their value proposition. To achieve this, Curian recently developed a "You" marketing campaign, including: customizable PowerPoint presentations, client workbooks and customizable invitations to use for hosting an event.

Earlier this year, the firm released two iPad applications, the MyRBC app and the Curian Client app, that help advisors calculate and plan for the profitability of client relationships. The Curian Client app gives advisors instant access to Curian's marketing materials and literature in a convenient, electronic format.

With their advertising, gold winner Franklin Templeton has positioned itself as an innovative leader with a strong brand.

In March, Franklin Templeton utilized highly targeted media placements to build awareness of its newly launched Franklin Templeton iPad App and its' benefits to financial advisors and investors. The campaign achieved a web banner click-through rate of 0.27%, more than four times the industry average of 0.06%, and drove an additional 1,500 financial advisors to demo or download pages via print, paid search and e-mail marketing.

Innovation in Customer Experience:

John Hancock Funds (Platinum)

Putnam Investments (Gold)

John Hancock Funds' Portfolio Insight is a web-based application that generates an in-depth analysis of a single fund or portfolio, or a side-by-side comparison of two fund portfolios. The interface of the tool is for use by advisers, while the output-a PDF report-is tailored for use by their clients, the investors. The tool allows advisors to analyze the entire universe of open end mutual funds (not just John Hancock funds) as well as most ETF's.

Hancock's data has also shown that advisers that use Portfolio Insight are more likely to sell multiple John Hancock funds while the belief is that addition of this feature will continue to increase adoption amongst advisors and lead to subsequent sales. For example: Half of advisors that do not use PI sold one to two funds while the remaining balance sold three or more funds. However, 80% of advisors that do use PI sell one three or more funds.

In April 2011, gold winner Putnam Investments launched FundVisualizer, an analytical tool enabling in-depth evaluations of more than 11,000 investment choices using more than 60 different selection criteria. This tool provides financial advisors with greater resources for making informed investment decisions for their clients. Enhancements to the portfolio modeling and fund-to-fund comparisons followed later that same year.

In June 2012, Putnam introduced a mobile version of FundVisualizer, available on iPads and Android-based tablets. As a first-of-its-kind financial services business- to-business application, FundVisualizer has demonstrated rapid adoption. The app has generated more than 560 downloads on iPad and 73 on Android. Active use of FundVisualizer is up almost 40% since its debut.

Subscribe Now

Access to premium content including in-depth coverage of mutual funds, hedge funds, 401(K)s, 529 plans, and more.

3-Week Free Trial

Insight and analysis into the management, marketing, operations and technology of the asset management industry.