Computer technology is providing mutual fund companies increasingly innovative ways to promote their funds to brokers.

CDA/Wiesenberger, which is dropping the CDA from its name, has developed a new method for fund companies to deliver sales ideas to brokers who sell their funds, said Dawn Kahler, vice president of marketing and communications for Wiesenberger.

Wiesenberger, a supplier of mutual fund performance data, is a division of Thomson Financial Services as is Securities Data Publishing, the publishers of this newsletter.

A new point-and-click capability has been added to Wiesenberger's so-called InvestmentView software. The new feature, called DirectConnect, gives brokers sales ideas on specific fund families.

InvestmentView was known as HySales until the addition of DirectConnect in February. It allowed brokers to compare funds by performance for their clients.

Wiesenberger has added the new feature to allow mutual fund companies to suggest sales approaches for their funds to brokers who are otherwise using objective fund performance data.

"We're feeding them (performance) information on the mutual funds, and we're also feeding them sales information," said Kahler.

The Thornburg Funds of Santa Fe, N.M. is the first company to use the DirectConnect feature. Other companies have expressed interest but no contracts have been signed, said Kahler. Thornburg used the DirectConnect in a trial period through 1998.

Companies that buy the feature can supply up to ten sales ideas to be listed in the DirectConnect "Idea File." The ideas can be either created by the fund company or by Wiesenberger and they can be changed monthly or quarterly. Thornburg created its own ideas.

Officials at Wiesenberger are calling DirectConnect a new marketing channel.

Thornburg believes it is ideal for small firms like itself which face much stronger distribution competition from larger firms. The Thornburg family of mutual funds has $2.2 billion in assets under management.

Leigh Moiola, managing director of the Thornburg Funds, says that her company is using DirectConnect as a way to increase awareness about its products since it has no wholesale force. Most of the sales ideas Thornburg has supplied to DirectConnect are for selling its value fund, which has a three-year annualized return of 31 percent and has a Morningstar 5-star rating. It is also supplying ideas for its bond funds.

"We really focused on the value fund because it has had such exceptional performance," Moiola said.

Moiola says that Thornburg, which is revising its sales ideas in DirectConnect quarterly, will continue using the program until it gets too diluted with other participants.

To encourage brokers who subscribe to InvestmentView to look at the sales ideas in DirectConnect, Thornburg has sent out direct mail marketing pieces which contain some of the sales ideas in the Idea File.

DirectConnect also allows brokers direct access to the Thornburg website through hotlinks if they have Internet access. Moiola said she knows of no other mutual fund database that offers this type of marketing feature.

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