New England Funds' Frank Maselli likes being out in the field, meeting with brokers and talking with his wholesalers. So that is why in October, New England Funds changed the senior vice president's title from director of sales to managing director in charge of national sales, freeing him of many of his administrative chores and allowing him to work with the sales force on a more one to one basis.
It has been nearly two years since Maselli came to New England Funds from Westcore Funds where he directed institutional sales. And since then, Maselli has tried to change the way that wholesalers and brokers pitch New England Funds. It is a method that embodies much of what Maselli stands for and teaches in his seminars and in his book, "Seminars: The Emotional Dynamic," which he published on his own in 1996.
"My best use is to be out there, in front of the broker," Maselli said.
John Hailer, who was plucked from Fidelity's institutional group to be senior vice president in charge of sales and marketing, has taken over Maselli's administrative duties. Maselli will be left with more time to visit field and internal wholesalers and to develop new sales initiatives.
Maselli says a number of experiences have helped him to develop the communication and interpersonal skills necessary to do his job successfully.
He has appeared in over 100 theatrical productions throughout his life, having first performed on stage at the age of 14. He has appeared in everything from Shakespeare to musical comedy and he has been public speaking since childhood. At Lafayette College in Eaton, Pa., he was elected student body president, thanks in part to his oratorical skills.
"I want to be out in front of people," Maselli said. "I learned a very personal touch very, very early. I learned how to get personal with people."
After college, he served in the U.S. Army for five years and led a MASH unit at Fort Meade in Maryland.
He began his financial services career as a broker with Dean Witter Reynolds in the humbling confines of a Sears Financial Center. At the time, Sears owned Dean Witter. There, Maselli routinely had 25 appointments a day with investors and he learned the value of face-to-face encounters. He joined Paine Webber in 1986 and was eventually named regional sales director for mutual funds.
Now that investors no longer need brokers and can place trades at any time of day and with ease right from their computers, Maselli believes that the value of advice is more important than ever. And that is much of the message Maselli is trying to convey to his sales force. He has been trying to move New England's sales focus away from fund performance and towards an emphasis on the value a broker can bring to an investor's portfolio.
"This business is not about numbers, statistics and logic," Maselli said. "The essence of this business is about interpersonal connections. It's very much an emotion-based business."
Maselli wants to develop brokers who win business by virtue of their relationships, not by promoting fund performance. performance can be fleeting, but the relationship between a broker and a client should be long-lasting, despite ups and downs in the market, Maselli said.
New England Funds offers 23 mutual funds which currently have $6.5 billion in assets under management. Its parent, Nvest has several money management subsidiaries, and it draws portfolio management from those companies. Nvest, in total, manages $125 billion in assets.
Because of his conviction that advice will be increasingly in demand in an ever-more complicated financial world, Maselli is confident that New England Funds is well-positioned.
"The war between load and no-load is over. We won," Maselli said.
The company is so sure that people need advice that it is going to try to sell no-load funds to investors with a sales charge. In December of last year, New England unveiled its plans for a program called Access Shares. Through that plan, investors will be able to buy funds from Harris Associates/Oakmark Funds and Loomis, Sayles & Co. through their broker. Those fund companies usually sell direct. New England will begin Access Shares in March.
Maselli believes strongly in advice and he puts credence in studies that say that those who invest their portfolio with the help of an adviser enjoy better performance numbers - indeed 200 basis points better on average. At the same time, he says performance is not what sells the New England Funds.
A long bull market has created a euphoric effect and made many relatively inexperienced investors feel that they can do without advice, Maselli said. But, older investors never tried to go without advice.
"It's a very exciting time and they all want to be in the casino," said Maselli. "A bull market has made them all feel very smart."
"Serious investors" have always used advice to manage their money, he said.
"Wait til this market has a massive setback... people are going to come flying back to advice," he said.