BOSTON - The Internet has become an important distribution channel and marketing tool for mutual fund companies of all sizes. However, as web technology becomes more complex and expensive, smaller firms are finding it more difficult to compete with the larger ones in the e-commerce world, according to industry executives who spoke here late last month at a technology forum sponsored by the National Investment Company Service Association of Boston.

"Big companies are forcing new technologies onto the web and are innovative on a daily basis, which makes it really hard for smaller firms with smaller budgets to compete," said Steven Miyao, CEO of kasina of New York, an e-commerce consulting firm for the mutual fund industry. "Leading firms use the web to play a key role, not only in customer service and marketing, but also from a branding perspective. Branding is becoming much more of an important part of the web."

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