CHICAGO - Hundreds of mutual fund and ETF providers gathered at Morningstar's Investment Conference last week to pursue their equivalent of high-speed dating: meeting face-to-face with the 1,400 planners and advisors in attendance.

From the fund provider viewpoint, it can be one of their most targeted and intense distribution and marketing strategies, according to Morningstar's Russ Kinnel, the firm's director of mutual fund research. "They're here to build relationships with advisors and get their message out," he says. "And it's even more important to face advisors when things aren't going so well," he added, calling out one attendee - PIMCO's Bill Gross and his PIMCO Total Return Fund, which suffered $4.3 billion in net outflows in May.

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