NEW YORK-Distribution executives must integrate all available data, including information from outside sources, to take advantage of new marketing opportunities, according to speakers at a National Investment Company Service Association seminar here earlier this month entitled "How to Stretch Your Distribution Dollars."

"There's so much good intelligence that we can use to make the wholesaler's job easier," said Mary Ann Doggett, co-founder and managing partner of Interactive Communications. But she noted that there is a difference between getting that information and using it.

Another speaker, Nick Stuller, president of Discovery Financial Information Group, said because the mutual fund industry is mature, it needs go get beyond what he called "the rear-view perspective" on sales activity.

One of his company's products, AccessDiscovery, which was created in partnership with Access Data, provides mutual fund companies with a picture of their most profitable financial intermediaries' clients and best prospects. It shows all the transactional and demographic data of advisers' activities.

Thus, AccessDiscovery enables national sales managers at mutual fund and other asset management firms to acquire and process detailed sales and marketing information generated by financial intermediaries.

The data is provided to end users in Salesforce or other customer relationship management (CRM) systems. The integrated data solution provided by AccessDiscovery allows fund companies to make better decisions about how to allocate resources.

Stuller said AccessDiscovery allows his firm to look at a client's entire enterprise and make suggestions about how to leverage existing sales staff across vertical markets in which the client company is active.

In the AccessDiscovery collaboration, Access Data contributes its detailed trading data, with Discovery providing rich market data.

"What is different about our relationship with Discovery is now we have the ability to qualify and profile your firm's historical sales information and relate it to the broad, rich and deep repository of market data about financial intermediaries available from Discovery," said Chip Miller, executive vice president of Access Data and the panel's moderator.

By using AccessDiscovery, wholesalers can make more money by selling more services to fewer advisers, Stuller maintained. "The combination of Access Data and Discovery Information enables a mutual fund wholesaler to spend all their time on their best clients and ideal prospects," Stuller said. He said the product takes the guesswork out of sales to financial intermediaries.

Among the features that AccessDiscovery offers is management of financial intermediary net sales and asset information, identification of trades by registered reps, trust officers or advisers, contact information for intermediaries and the identification of ideal client profiles and their comparison to a list of prospects.

An additional benefit is that it can increase a fund family's "wallet share" of advisers' relationships by identifying advisers who meet a particular profile even if their visible transactions currently are small.

Wholesalers' Learning Curve

But despite the availability of these tools, Doggett emphasized that there is still a barrier between getting information and using it. Wholesalers are behind the times when it comes to using technology and they need help in changing their behavior, she said.

"There are some wholesalers who have embraced the new technology, but most haven't. It wasn't that long ago that most wholesalers didn't have a cell phone," she said.

In fact, some wholesalers are reluctant to see new advisers, Doggett said, but information like that contained in the AccessDiscovery product will allow them to find out if a registered investment adviser who they may not know, has the characteristics that would make him an appealing prospect.

The challenge for the industry is to get the new tools to function as an integral part of the sales process., Doggett said. It isn't enough for marketing executives to get excited about the new capabilities, they must translate this into end-user adaptations, she added.

Another industry participant, Ken Keiser, product manager for DST Systems, agreed that fund companies need to use data more efficiently to reach out to advisers. DST is the largest provider of third-party software recordkeeping applications for the mutual fund industry.

He said it was important for fund companies to leverage all the data sources they can in order to improve their operating efficiencies.

The cleanliness of the data that vendors or the mutual fund families themselves generate is vital, Keiser said. The steep rate of annual turnover among registered reps and other advisers, perhaps as high as 25% of the 500,000-some advisers, poses a tremendous difficulty for companies that attempt to track their activities, Keiser said.

The lack of omnibus account transparency is another problem that data providers must contend with, he added. A consideration in choosing among vendors is that their data should facilitate identifying trades from clearance agencies and other sources of bundled transactions.

One of DST's strengths is that it can provide clients with rich data on its sales efforts as well as on its shareholders, Keiser said. Fund companies can benefit from a link-up between the advisers' activities and how that affects individual shareholders.

(c) 2007 Money Management Executive and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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