For fund companies breaking into the managed account marketplace, there is one crucial question: Can you get your products on the platforms of the major wirehouses? Big wirehouses control more than 70% of managed account assets, according to Cerulli Associates, a Boston-based consulting firm. While other channels may be growing, it's the wirehouses that can make or break a company's entry into the business, according to industry executives.

MFS Investment Management first introduced its managed account product in May 2001, and the firm has already experienced substantial growth. In March, MFS had approximately $2 billion in managed account assets, and, unlike some other firms, built its program from the ground-up, as opposed to acquiring existing firms, according to John Reilly, a spokesman for the Boston-based firm. Companies typically have to have at least $500 million in assets to break even in the managed account market, according to Financial Research Corp. of Boston, although break-even points differ from firm to firm.

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