During the same two days that the National Investment Company Service Association (NICSA) will hold its technology forum, another industry group is holding its own technology conference.

The first-ever conference, The Emerging Technology Conference for the Mutual Fund Industry, is being sponsored by Graylyn Associates of Chatham, Mass., a research group and publisher. Both forums will be held April 26 and April 27 in the Boston area.

The Emerging Technology Conference will bring together technology start-up firms, venture capital firms and mutual fund companies that are interested in using the firms' new technology, much of which is Internet-based. Over a dozen companies will be presenting at the forum, including Merrill Corp., InUnity and Interlink Business Solutions.

Technology is so important to mutual fund companies because it enhances and delivers customer service, the cornerstone of the mutual fund industry, said Gerald G. Kokos, president and chief executive officer of Empirical Software, one of the presenting companies at the Emerging Technology Conference.

Technology conferences are a way to gain entree to the mutual fund market, technology company executives said at a recent news conference announcing the Emerging Technology Conference.

The Emerging Technology Conference was initially scheduled for last October but was postponed because of the market crash that month.

Officials from both Graylyn Associates and NICSA said that concerns over the Investment Company Institute's May general membership meeting made them schedule their conferences for April.

However, Darby M. Hobbs, president of Graylyn Associates, believes that NICSA scheduled its conference on the same days as the Emerging Technology Conference in a competitive move. Her conference's focus on start-up firms differentiates the Emerging Technology Conference from the NICSA expo and so there is not much overlap in subject area, she said.

The NICSA conference is entitled "An Information Technology Vision for the 21st Century: Are You Ready?" Last year, NICSA held its technology conference and general membership meeting May 7 and May 8 in Boston. This year, the NICSA technology conference and general membership meetings are being held separately. The general membership meeting is being held May 6 in Boston.

The decision to schedule NICSA's seventh annual technology conference in April had to do with hotel space and the ICI's general membership meeting in May, and nothing to do with the new technology conference, said Ellen Weinraub, NICSA's marketing and communications manager.

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