In an effort to promote its mutual funds, Chicago-based brokerage William Blair & Co. is developing a new Web site that will go live mid-month. The new site is part of a comprehensive marketing effort to promote the company’s funds specifically, according to Martin Gawne, marketing director for the William Blair Funds.

About two years ago, the company hired Marco Hanig to head the nine-fund, $2.5 billion-in-assets unit, and at the same time initiated a "proactive, external sales effort," said Gawne. "We catered to high-net-worth clients and originally our fund family was perceived as funds for convenience for those clients," he said. "We would run separate accounts for them and the funds would be perfect vehicles for gifts for their grandchildren, nieces, nephews."

Now, however, the company is trying to open its funds to all investors and has assembled a team of 11 to do so. The site, to serve individual investors as well as registered investment advisors, is an integral part of that campaign, Gawne said. Previously, the funds only had a few pages with prices and prospectuses linked from the company’s corporate site.

"I think in this day in age, you’ve got to have a Web presence," said Gawne. "It levels the playing field between big fund companies and smaller one."

The new site will offer a wide array of information including fund statistics, portfolio holding information, sector breakdowns, fund manager commentary, and performance information. The site will not have transaction capabilities when it goes live, but that is something the company is planning to add down the road, Gawne said.

The site was developed in conjunction with The SySys Corp., a Web design and e-business implementation firm, which specializes in mutual funds. William Blair has adopted SySys’ FundSys product, a web-based administrative tool, to manage and update one or more mutual fund Web sites. FundSys allows companies to manipulate and post data on one or multiple sites on an ongoing basis. "We think the FundSys product is going to be really helpful for us because we’ll be able to manage the site with relatively few people," said Gawne. "It’s really helpful for very small fund units like we are."

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