Becoming senior vice president of retail fund marketing and electronic commerce for Liberty Funds Distributors of Boston attracted Karl Schofield because it afforded him the opportunity to become involved in all aspects of marketing Stein Roe funds, a brand he feels has strong growth prospects. In addition to traditional marketing communications, Schofield will head up changes planned for both www.steinroe.com and younginvestor.com.
Schofield, who assumed his position in mid-March, will emphasize the strong performance of Stein Roe funds and the company's history as a growth stock investor in marketing campaigns, he said.
"I don't think investors realize that we have three five-star funds and four, four-star funds or that we're a growth stock mutual fund company and we've been investing this way for 70 years," said Schofield. "Our first mutual fund is about 50 years old. Today, everybody is jumping on the growth bandwagon, but we've been growth investors in good markets and in bad markets - and that's experience that benefits investors."
Before joining Liberty, Schofield worked for Fidelity for 17 years, most recently on the retail funds network, building relationships with outside fund partners and selling internally the concept of offering third party funds at Fidelity.
"This was something that was not always an incredibly popular thing," said Schofield. "I think we did a good job in the last few years at Fidelity at creating an understanding of how important it is to have a whole range of financial products available to your customers."
One of the first goals Schofield has in his position at Stein Roe is to improve customer communications.
"We have not spent enough time talking to our customers about what we do for them and how we can do more," he said.
Schofield also intends to focus on the 15 to 20 percent of Stein Roe customers who invest in the funds through Schwab or Fidelity.
"These investors are Stein Roe customers and we should make sure that they feel like Stein Roe customers," he said. "We want them to know Stein Roe as something more than one of the 20 mutual funds they have in their Fidelity brokerage account. A lot of mutual fund companies really don't think about people investing through mutual fund supermarkets, but the numbers of people investing that way has grown significantly over the last five years.
We need to make sure that we are talking to our supermarket customers the same way we are talking to our direct customers. We want all our investors to know that the Stein Roe brand stands for growth investing over a long period of time."
That is a message Schofield will also take to the general public with a media campaign beginning next year.
"Our Young Investor Fund is an incredible brand name out in the marketplace with great performance and great managers - a real pioneer for teaching kids about money and investing," said Schofield. "We can expand on that success to educate more than just kids. For example, we could offer GenXers education on how to buy a first house, pick a mortgage, or consolidate credit card debt."
Although Schofield said there is good information available on SteinRoe.com, he plans to work to present it in a more attractive manner.
"I find the site text-heavy," he said. "I want to try and get it more visually appealing so we can tell customers a story quickly as opposed to making them read four to six paragraphs."
Schofield also intends to pursue electronic partnerships.
"The key is to anticipate who will be using our site in 12 to 24 months and to match up with their investment needs," he said. "We plan to introduce some content that no other fund sites have in order to differentiate us for customers as a place to go for more in-depth information than they'd find on other sites. I'm talking with three or four firms, but nothing is firmed up yet. We'll be ready to role something out for 2001."
In the meantime, Schofield is building his staff. In addition to someone to lead in electronic commerce and help build a customer database, he plans to hire someone to work directly under him in all areas of marketing from welcome campaigns and customer communication strategies to fund launches and advertising.