A position once delegated to shuffling papers and answering telephones, the internal wholesaler is taking on greater significance as mutual fund companies search for ways to cut costs, streamline distribution and enhance service for their selling partners. Still, there is a delicate balance between dedicating additional internal resources and maintaining the personal client relations that only an external wholesaler can provide.

"When it comes down to it, face-to-face meetings are what improve sales," said Derek Evans, a principal at the New York-based consulting group kasina, which recently published a white paper on the topic. But even at a major fund company with a small army of wholesalers, "it's simply not possible for them to adequately penetrate the vast number of adviser firms and individual advisers that are out there."

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