Starting in May, Merrill Lynch will market its mutual funds under the name Princeton Portfolio Research & Management. The company hopes the name change will appeal more to third party advisers, who were turned off by selling products named after their competitor.
Merrill also hopes it might invoke the prestige of the Ivy League university after which the funds are named. Merrill's asset management unit has also been based in Princeton, N.J., for more than 20 years.
"This new brand is the lynchpin of our efforts to make our industry-leading products and services available to an even broader range of advisers and investors," said Robert Doll, president and chief investment officer of Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, in a statement. "It represents an opportunity to focus third-party attention where it should be - on our ability to deliver consistent and strong performance over a long time horizon."
Merrill Lynch Investment Managers has about $539 billion in assets under management. The upcoming change is in name only, and does not represent any change in strategy or portfolio management teams. Institutional operations and those outside of the U.S. will retain the Merrill Lynch Investment Management name.
Executives decided to drop the Merrill Lynch name after noticing that certain products, such as closed-end funds, have sold very well through third-party advisors, while the mutual funds were harder to market.
"We can understand fully those sales organizations that don't want to promote the brand of an organization they compete with," Doll told The Wall Street Journal.
Some have speculated in recent years that Merrill Lynch would sell its underperforming asset management arm, although performance has markedly improved lately. In 2000, just more than half of Merrill's funds beat their classes. At the end of last year, 85% of invested assets beat the average fund in their class.