AdvisorCentral, the mutual fund Internet portal for financial advisers sponsored by Fidelity Institutional, Putnam Investments, Franklin Templeton Investments and PFPC, is having a tough time living up to original expectations.

A spokeswoman for PFPC said that the end of the Firstar relationship with PFPC was a timing issue due to the merger. She said that the impact on the portal itself should be minimal because Firstar’s funds were smaller in scale.

Not surprisingly, the AdvisorCentral’s new chief executive is optimistic. The portal is in discussions that could result in adding a block of funds that would bring the number in line with earlier expectations, said Joseph Grause, chief executive of the portal. He added that the partnerships -- assuming all goes well -- will be announced next week, yet declined to give any more information.

AdvisorCentral is also looking over the next six months to increase the number of broker-dealers who use the site through existing relationships with the sponsoring fund companies. "Ultimately, we think that will translate into other fund families wanting to connect to AdvisorCentral," Grause said.

But like any new service or tool, "the marketplace will decide who will offer the best suite of services," Grause said. "The way that [we’re] really going to be successful is to be responsive to what the independent financial planners want. It can’t be simply what the fund companies or what the recordkeeping companies want."

But it’s still unclear how the portal will compete against its closest rival, DST System’s Vision , which offers a similar platform with 150 management companies and nearly 200 funds.
One reason for the low mutual fund participation is the dissolving relationship between PFPC -- the back-end technology contributor to the portal -- and the former Firstar funds (which merged with First American funds in May after U.S. Bancorp merged with Firstar bank).
In January, when the portal was first announced, officials said they expected to launch in the third quarter with at least 100 mutual fund companies on board. But as the end of the year nears and the site is just starting to be put into play, so far slightly less than half have joined (see MFMN 11/27/01).

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